NM roads get average grade from civil engineers

Posted at: 03/20/2013 5:20 PM
Updated at: 03/20/2013 5:21 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

In New Mexico people say orange barrel season starts on January 1 and ends on December 31.

That may be how our state earned a “C” on a report card from the nation’s civil engineers, instead of a “D” - or God help us – an “F”.

All of that road work we love to complain about actually keeps our highways in better than average condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers in its report card on the nation’s infrastructure.

Albuquerque driver Jessica Blaine pretty much agrees with that assessment.

 Probably about a B or a C,” Blaine said. “They’re not bad. Some parts they’re taking care of, but I think we can do with some improvement.”

But Cal Lintner is visiting from Colorado, and he’s not impressed.

“I’d say about a C to a D. Traffic is bad, heavy traffic, and some of the road conditions are not so good,” Lintner said.

Heavy traffic is indeed a problem, according to the civil engineers. About 19 percent of the state’s urban interstate highways are rated “congested”, ranking 9th worst in the nation. With the Albuquerque metro area’s population expected to hit 1 million by 2025, it will only get worse. The city’s automobile travel has been increasing at about three times the rate of population growth, well above the national average.

The state Transportation Department’s job is to somehow plan for all of that.

“It’s getting more and more difficult, I’ll tell you,” said Phil Gallegos of the department’s Albuquerque operations office. “With funds being what they are today, budgets are relatively flat. Road use is increasing. We’re pretty much in maintenance mode.”

The civil engineers’ report notes that many states are in the same predicament, thanks to the recession. But nobody thinks that “maintenance” will be enough for traffic in the years ahead.

The report says New Mexico’s biggest problem is funding for the long haul – and it does note that the state’s gasoline tax has not increased in many years, while fuel prices keep going up.