Los Lunas receives federal funding to begin corridor project

LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas is one step closer to constructing a new interchange at I-25 in the southern part of the village.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $25 million grant has been awarded to the village as a part of their INFRA program to go towards the project.

“We, the village, have applied for this grant or some version of it — it hasn’t always been called the INFRA grant,” said  Los Lunas Administrator Greg Martin. “We have been, for the past seven or eight years at least, putting in an application and this year our application was positively received.”

The project will add a new I-25 interchange that is 1.5 miles south of the current interchange, and will create four miles of four-lane roadway along Morris Road, connecting I-25 with N.M. 47. The project will also bring a new river crossing and four signalized intersections.

Morris Road will act as a sort of frontage road for the new highway and will not be affected by the construction project.

Phase one of construction — building the four-lane highway from N.M. 47 to N.M. 314 including a river crossing — is expected to break ground in the fall of 2022. The interchange will be a part of the final phase of the project. Martin anticipates construction to take about three years.

In a previous phase outline of the plan, the project was to begin with the interchange and work its way east, however the current design shows the project beginning in the east and ending with the interchange.

“With the funding, hopefully it all stays in place so our targets can be met, but we’re looking at it and I think it’s realistic to hope that once it gets started, within three years of construction or so, it’ll be done. It should be done in five or six years,” Martin said.

Martin said current estimates for the project fall in the $115 million to $120 million range with the interchange alone costing about $25 million.

“You’re going to see various numbers for that goal because the longer this project goes, the numbers tend to change depending on the economic situation, and cost increases for supplies and labor,” he said, adding that initial cost estimate for the project fell around $75 million.

In addition to U.S. DOT, several other governments at all levels have put funding into the project. The New Mexico Legislature appropriated $10 million in 2019 and an additional $15.2 million in 2021. New Mexico Department of Transportation has also put aside $45 million out of its discretionary fund for the project.

“If you added those up, you can see a significant portion of the overall funding has already been allocated at the state level,” Martin said.

He added Valencia County also contributed $2 million of general obligation bond funding as well as an additional $2.5 million from the village of Los Lunas.

The plan for a new interchange in the Los Lunas corridor of I-25 was reignited in 2006 after the Valencia County Mobility Plan study formally identified major congestion along N.M. 6 (Main Street) and recommended a new east to west arterial road connecting I-25 to N.M. 47.

“It’s not just a new road and interchange, but the true impacts of efficiency and safety, response times and just travel times both in the corridor that will be built and the relief that it will provide on our current Main Street traffic,” Martin said.

Additional subsequent studies and meetings identified the current proposed location for the highway, parallel to the south of Morris Road.

“Early on, it was hard to imagine this coming to fruition because of everybody’s hard work and time and energy.” Martin said. “It looks like we’re able to finally see the project as a project with real dollars and real dirt getting turned, not just theoretical.”