ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The deadline is looming.
“It’s a big deal,” said New Mexico Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Loren Hatch.
If Congress doesn’t act soon, highway funding dollars will run out and federal highway employees will be furloughed beginning August 1st.
“It would have a significant impact on the state of New Mexico and the country in general,” Hatch said.
Deputy Secretary Hatch says funding has survived through a two-month extension passed a May, but if Congress doesn’t pass a long-term bill or another short-term extension, highway projects in New Mexico could be suspended or even terminated until funding is restored.
“We have to consider which projects are the most important, how much reimbursement we’re getting from the Feds, if any,” explained Hatch.
Hatch says federal funding works kind of like a credit card. The state pays out of pocket and is then reimbursed. At any one time, there are between 200 and 250 highway projects in the state to the tune of $640 million. That includes projects like the Coors and I-40 interchange and the project on I-25 south near the Sunport.
It would be a big blow to the 7,000 private contractors working on New Mexico roads.
“That’s the way they support their families. These are our family members, these are our neighbors, these are our friends,” said Hatch.
What’s more, without a resolution, Hatch says we could miss out on this year’s construction season.
“We have a period of the year where we’re able to do highway projects and a period where we’re not able to do them and so if there’s a disruption, if Congress doesn’t act, there could be a significant period of time before we are able to get them going again,” Hatch explained.