Road projects in jeopardy when federal fund runs dry

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – New Mexico’s biggest construction project, the Paseo Del Norte, Interstate 25 overhaul could soon be short of cash after a federal fund that’s chipping in money runs out of funds.

If Congress doesn’t come up with a way to fund the Highway Trust Fund the project on Paseo del Norte and I-25 would lose out on millions and there are other projects that could be stalled altogether.

Construction of the massive Paseo/ I-25 Interchange project is about a quarter complete. Officials said work is ramping up to prepare for the biggest chunk of construction which is the flyover from I-25 north to Paseo del Norte westbound. With that said, there is no turning back now.

However, according to New Mexico Department of Transportation spokesperson Melissa Dosher a portion of that funding could be jeopardy.

“We are concerned but we are prepared,” Dosher said.

The state Department of Transportation recently learned that a federal trust fund that pays for highway projects is going broke.

“The DOT is funded, 75% funded, through federal funds,” Dosher said.

Dosher said if Congress doesn’t act fast federally funded projects like the current expansion of Highway 491 from Gallup to Farmington could be halted.

“Its a high traffic area,” Dosher said. “It serves the entire Navajo Nation in New Mexico, so it’s a pretty highly traveled road.”

Many are wondering what does this mean for the Paseo project. The federal government has agreed to put in $5 million to get the $93 million project done.

“It’s project is unique. It’s funded by the federal government, state, city and Bernalillo County,” Dosher said.

The Department of Transportation said right now they’re using mainly city and state dollars to move the project forward. But they said if Congress doesn’t come up with a solution the state will have to pick up the feds’ tab.

“I think with the state road fund we can use that money as a last case resort but as of right now we’re pretty confident that congress is going to come through. They have in the past, when ever these situations have risen,” Dosher said.

If Congress authorizes federal dollars for the trust fund New Mexico will get reimbursed for money it may have to use. Dosher said that also means projects, that may have been stalled, will start up again.

A spokesperson with U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce said next week Congress is expected to discuss a federal transportation bill that could authorize the much needed money. Congress is expected to vote on it this summer.

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