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Author Topic: The sad state of Raton Pass  (Read 1227 times)

Aquatarkus

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The sad state of Raton Pass
« on: January 09, 2021, 04:13:25 PM »

Anyone know why this road is seemingly always completely trashed with potholes? I get NM isn't exactly flush with cash but this is probably the worst section of interstate highway I drive with any remote regularity and it stands out how bad it is. I get that the environment of a mountain pass isn't exactly the kidest to road surfaces, but it seems like nmdot is perfectly fine just filling potholes forever until the end of time instead of fixing it in a more complete fashion.

Anyone know of any plans in the works to remediate the rest of the road surface?
« Last Edit: January 09, 2021, 04:15:42 PM by Aquatarkus »
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2021, 08:00:17 PM »

NM is one of the few states with really bad pavement quality statewide.
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abqtraveler

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2021, 11:23:46 AM »

NM is one of the few states with really bad pavement quality statewide.

New Mexico is among states with the lowest state fuel tax rates in the country, and there appears to be no appetite whatsoever in Santa Fe to find ways to raise revenue to keep our state's roads in decent shape. Even for the road projects that do happen out here, they are done so half-assed that the road that was reconstructed is crumbling again within 5 to 10 years. Point in fact, look at US-54 between Carrizozo and Tularosa. NMDOT spent close to $100 million completely reconstructing that section from 2011 to 2015 with new bridges and culverts and a new roadway with wider shoulders and truck lanes in certain spots. Not even 10 years later, and it's falling apart with heaving on parts of the roadway, plenty of potholes and rutted pavement.

If I were in charge of the DOT out here, I would have made sure there was some kind of warranty in the contract to cover this kind of situation, and I would be going after those contractors to fix everything they didn't do right the first time on their own dime. There's absolutely no reason why a brand new section of road should be failing in less than 10 years if it were built correctly. 
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2021, 11:46:21 AM »

The US routes in northwest NM are another great example of the sad state of the roads down there. The US 550 four-lane was done in just about the cheapest way possible. Instead of building a second carriageway, they just built two more lanes separated by a small flush median with rumble strips. I would be shocked if this actually decreased the accident rate all that much.

At least they built a second carriageway on US 491 south of Shiprock...but it is not at all smooth. Southbound is easily the bumpiest 70 mph road I've ever been on. And the remaining 2-lane portion from Shiprock to the Colorado border is even worse. Entering NM on 491 (or really any other highway), the easiest way to identify the state line is a big BUMP followed by a much rougher road. You may or may not get a state welcome sign within a few miles.

Max Rockatansky

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2021, 01:55:52 PM »

New Mexico is the only state I worked in where I didnít feel like a State Route was necessarily an assurance of a quality highway.  The surface maintenance is a long known problem and is among the worst (if not the worst) on average in the country.  US Routes and Interstates are at least maintained enough to not cause major problems, but that isnít the case on a lot of State Routes.  I also believe New Mexico has one of the largest inventories of gravel surface State highways. 
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abqtraveler

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2021, 01:58:45 PM »

The US routes in northwest NM are another great example of the sad state of the roads down there. The US 550 four-lane was done in just about the cheapest way possible. Instead of building a second carriageway, they just built two more lanes separated by a small flush median with rumble strips. I would be shocked if this actually decreased the accident rate all that much.

At least they built a second carriageway on US 491 south of Shiprock...but it is not at all smooth. Southbound is easily the bumpiest 70 mph road I've ever been on. And the remaining 2-lane portion from Shiprock to the Colorado border is even worse. Entering NM on 491 (or really any other highway), the easiest way to identify the state line is a big BUMP followed by a much rougher road. You may or may not get a state welcome sign within a few miles.

There have been plenty of fatal head-on collisions on US-550 over the years. When asked by local media outlets as to whether NMDOT was considering safety improvements along 550--specifically cable barriers along the median, NMDOT officials stated they had no immediate plans to make US-550 safer. To put this into context, this question was brought up in 2017, right when the state used up everything it had to build that $200 million boondoggle in Albuquerque known as ART.  For that amount, NMDOT could have installed cable barriers along the entire length of US-550 from Bernalillo to Colorado and still have plenty of money left over to build interchanges at a few key junctions to improve safety along the 550 corridor.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 03:03:39 PM by abqtraveler »
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2021, 02:01:16 PM »

It's more a prioritization issue than a funding issue. Under Governor Brownback (until the beginning of 2018), Kansas was strapped for cash, and the governor was very unpopular because of what he did to the school system. Even with all this, they maintained their roads quite well.
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Bobby5280

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2021, 07:31:18 PM »

I drive over Raton Pass on a somewhat regular basis, driving between Oklahoma and Colorado to visit family in the Colorado Springs area. I've been doing so since the late 1990's when my parents first moved up there. Yeah I don't understand the, uh, "strategy" the New Mexico state government has for I-25 at the NM/CO border. It seems like the policy is to simply slap down more layers of asphalt overlay and then do patch jobs here and there.

They've had this big construction project going on for the past couple or so years at the top of Raton Pass. But not much is being done to improve the roadway itself. Meanwhile here in Oklahoma (another state with very modest road building funding mechanisms) they seem to take safety improvements more seriously. There is a lot of state highways that have been four-laned and divided in response to head-on collisions. While there is not a whole lot of new freeway or toll road construction, generally they're putting down brand new concrete super slab on these projects when they do upgrades on super highways. I really like the re-build they did of I-44 just West of Tulsa.

I think some of the criticisms leveled at New Mexico are also valid against Colorado. There is a number of highways there that badly need to be four-laned. One example is US-24 going out Northeast of Colorado Springs. A number of fatal head-on collisions have happened there over the years. Big new housing developments are sprouting up in the Falcon and Black Forest areas. These new neighborhoods have nice, wide, landscaped streets that are dumping traffic off into puny, crumbling main arterial roads, like US-24. It's ridiculous.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 07:34:53 PM by Bobby5280 »
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2021, 07:48:12 PM »

Colorado does have some state highways on ratty shape (especially CO 139 over Douglas Pass the last time I drove it) but I would give the win to New Mexico handily.  Granted, Iím just referring to surface quality and not capacity.
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Bobby5280

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2021, 08:12:34 PM »

Both states have a lot of roads that need to be maintained better and/or upgraded. But, yeah, New Mexico overall has worse roads than Colorado.

In the few cases where Colorado does upgrade a major highway, such as I-25, they usually do a decent job at it. I don't really have any complaints about the re-build they did of I-25 in Trinidad a decade ago. Same goes for the portions of I-25 re-built and expanded in Pueblo and points between Denver and Colorado Springs. However CDOT still has a lot of junk they really need to address. I really don't like some of the turn lane layouts they have on 2-lane roads -just to bring up US-24 again.

As bad as the roads are in New Mexico, I'm still glad that they at least divided US-64/87 when they did the 4-lane "GRIP" project. Oh man, I absolutely hated driving on that road between Raton and Clayton when it was just a 2-lane facility. There is hardly any trees out there at all, making the landscape appear wide open. But the terrain rolls enough there that the road dips and curves enough where it was hard to pass anyone with it being a 2-lane road. All it took was one slow-poke in an RV or some other vehicle to create a freaking traffic jam behind it. I'd often time my trips where I would drive that segment later at night with as little traffic as possible to avoid the slow pokes. With the road being 4-laned and divided the slow pokes are no longer an issue. BTW, I don't know why they still bother with the "safety corridor" thing around Mount Dora now that the road is 4-laned and divided.
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abqtraveler

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2021, 10:37:22 AM »

Both states have a lot of roads that need to be maintained better and/or upgraded. But, yeah, New Mexico overall has worse roads than Colorado.

In the few cases where Colorado does upgrade a major highway, such as I-25, they usually do a decent job at it. I don't really have any complaints about the re-build they did of I-25 in Trinidad a decade ago. Same goes for the portions of I-25 re-built and expanded in Pueblo and points between Denver and Colorado Springs. However CDOT still has a lot of junk they really need to address. I really don't like some of the turn lane layouts they have on 2-lane roads -just to bring up US-24 again.

As bad as the roads are in New Mexico, I'm still glad that they at least divided US-64/87 when they did the 4-lane "GRIP" project. Oh man, I absolutely hated driving on that road between Raton and Clayton when it was just a 2-lane facility. There is hardly any trees out there at all, making the landscape appear wide open. But the terrain rolls enough there that the road dips and curves enough where it was hard to pass anyone with it being a 2-lane road. All it took was one slow-poke in an RV or some other vehicle to create a freaking traffic jam behind it. I'd often time my trips where I would drive that segment later at night with as little traffic as possible to avoid the slow pokes. With the road being 4-laned and divided the slow pokes are no longer an issue. BTW, I don't know why they still bother with the "safety corridor" thing around Mount Dora now that the road is 4-laned and divided.

I find it interesting that the stretch of 64/87 near Des Moines, New Mexico is one of the few sections of highway that NMDOT paved with concrete instead of asphalt. The only other areas where NMDOT used concrete pavement are a few sections of I-40 around Sedillo Hill and through Albuquerque. Another interesting observation is there are signs along 64/87 advertising it as the "Ports to Plains Corridor." While an interstate highway has been long sought for the broader Ports to Plains Corridor between South Texas and the Denver area, I doubt we'll ever see 64/87 upgraded to interstate standards, especially when a more direct route exists running straight north from Amarillo, through the Oklahoma Panhandle and into eastern Colorado that bypasses Raton Pass entirely.
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Bobby5280

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2021, 11:34:20 AM »

US-64/87 between Clayton and Raton does have some stretches with concrete road bed, but there are other parts that are still just asphalt. Shoulder widths also vary with some locations featuring wide shoulders that seem in line with Interstate standards but others that are not. I think the best quality stretches are East of Raton and approaching Mount Dora from the East.

I don't consider US-287 North out of Amarillo into SE CO as a more direct route. For my drives between Lawton and Colorado Springs the route through Raton is the shortest route in terms of mileage. And most of the route is 4-laned and divided, except for the short stretch between Dumas and Hartley. Going through SE CO involves a bunch of right and left angles. While US-287 into Colorado avoids Raton Pass the road is still dangerous because it's mostly a 2-lane road. One of my girlfriend's friends was killed in a head-on collision on US-287 in the CO/OK border area. On top of that, drivers might need nose plugs heading North of Dumas on US-287 due to feed lots and cattle processing plants along the way.

I don't expect US-64/87 in the Texas Panhandle and NE NM to be upgraded to Interstate standards either. Perhaps the pavement and shoulders could be improved, particularly on the New Mexico portion to Raton. I think people in Dalhart, Texline and Clayton would raise hell if a freeway was going to bypass around their towns. And then there's all the farm/ranch access needs between towns.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2021, 09:22:35 PM by Bobby5280 »
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abqtraveler

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2021, 05:23:13 PM »


I don't consider US-287 North out of Amarillo into SE CO as a more direct route. For my drives between Lawton and Colorado Springs the route through Raton is the shortest route in terms of mileage. And most of the route is 4-laned and divided, except for the short stretch between Dumas and Hartley. Going through SE CO involves a bunch of right and left angles. While US-287 into Colorado avoids Raton Pass the road is still dangerous because it's mostly a 2-lane road. One of my girlfriend's friends was killed in a head-on collision on US-287 in the CO/OK border area. On top of that, drivers might need nose plugs heading North of Dumas on US-287 due to feed lots cattle processing plants along the way.


That may be true that 64/87 may be more direct to get from Amarillo to Colorado Springs or Pueblo, but looking on the map it appears to me that for Denver and points north, following US-287 north from Amarillo to I-70 at Limon, Colorado would be more direct.  True that a lot of US-287 through Oklahoma and Colorado is 2-lane with some occasional right-angle turns, most of the route is through open rural areas that are relatively flat. IMO, it would be easier add a second roadway alongside the existing road, and build bypasses where necessary. The problem with the 64/87 routing is not with 64/87 itself; rather the huge bottleneck that will create at Raton Pass with all that new traffic dumping onto I-25 heading north from Raton. The I-25 roadway going over Raton Pass is narrow, winding, and steep, and there are not a whole lot of options available to add capacity to that stretch. Then you would have to think about widening I-25 from Raton Pass to Colorado Springs. Most of that work would not be too hard since a new lane can be built in the median in most places, but the stretch through Pueblo clearly predates modern interstate highway standards, is crookeder than a dog's hind leg, and will be a very costly rebuild.
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jayhawkco

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2021, 05:37:13 PM »

Colorado does have some state highways on ratty shape (especially CO 139 over Douglas Pass the last time I drove it) but I would give the win to New Mexico handily.  Granted, Iím just referring to surface quality and not capacity.

They were doing construction on it this summer when I was up there (around Memorial Day).  Honestly, there's only a couple CO state highways that I think are pretty bad, and most of them are in the Denver metro (CO53 and CO265 particularly jump to mind).  Maybe it's because I drive a Jeep that I don't notice as much.

New Mexico, on the other hand, seems to have somewhat forgotten that they have state highways.

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2021, 05:41:45 PM »

I went through the Raton Pass on December 19th, 2020.  I was amazed at how bad I-25 was, even for New Mexico standards.  One question:  Do the locals pronounce it Ray-ten or the correct Spanish pronunciation of Raa-ton?  I have heard little consistency on this. 
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2021, 05:42:53 PM »

I went through the Raton Pass on December 19th, 2020.  I was amazed at how bad I-25 was, even for New Mexico standards.  One question:  Do the locals pronounce it Ray-ten or the correct Spanish pronunciation of Raa-ton?  I have heard little consistency on this.

ruh-TONE

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2021, 07:45:35 PM »

I went through the Raton Pass on December 19th, 2020.  I was amazed at how bad I-25 was, even for New Mexico standards.  One question:  Do the locals pronounce it Ray-ten or the correct Spanish pronunciation of Raa-ton?  I have heard little consistency on this.

Last time I drove over Raton Pass in September 2019, they were doing some kind of construction on the New Mexico side. I'm not surprised they left it worse than was before the construction.
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2021, 09:57:58 PM »

Quote from: abqtraveler
That may be true that 64/87 may be more direct to get from Amarillo to Colorado Springs or Pueblo, but looking on the map it appears to me that for Denver and points north, following US-287 north from Amarillo to I-70 at Limon, Colorado would be more direct.

From Amarillo to Denver the two route options look like a parallelogram with not a significant amount of mileage difference. Given the route to Raton is mostly 4-laned and US-287 to Kit Carson and Limon is mostly 2-lane, for me the route to Raton wins.

If I was a semi truck driver I would feel different; going over Raton Pass is more hairy for a big rig truck than a much smaller personal vehicle. Neither route alternative has any advantage for winter weather. No one wants to go over Raton Pass in a snow storm. Likewise, blizzards can just freaking rage in the plains East of the Front Range. I'd hate to be on a rural 2-lane road in Eastern Colorado during a blizzard where the road just disappears under all the snow. A car sliding off the road into a heavy drift may not be discovered for days.

The mileage difference is much more substantial taking US-287 into Colorado to go to Colorado Springs. An almost 90 degree angle is involved going North to Kit Carson and picking up CO-94 to go straight West to Colorado Springs.

Quote from: abqtraveler
True that a lot of US-287 through Oklahoma and Colorado is 2-lane with some occasional right-angle turns, most of the route is through open rural areas that are relatively flat. IMO, it would be easier add a second roadway alongside the existing road, and build bypasses where necessary.

Well, I think ODOT and CDOT need to get off their butts and add the second set of lanes already, starting with the segment between Boise City and Campo where the road winds its way off the caprock.

I don't like driving long distances on 2-lane roads. We've long had factors like rain-slicked roads or ice that can enhance the chances of a head-on collision. In recent years the phones and other digital toys people have in their cars have raised the risks even more via inattentive driving. Serious accidents happen on divided highways too (people turning onto the highway in the path of cars going full highway speed). But the risk of head-on collisions is greatly reduced on divided highways.

Quote from: abqtraveler
Last time I drove over Raton Pass in September 2019, they were doing some kind of construction on the New Mexico side. I'm not surprised they left it worse than was before the construction.

The construction was still in progress when I drove through there in early September, 2020 (Labor Day weekend and the following weekend). I couldn't believe it snowed at my Parents' house that week. Anyway, it looked like the project was fairly far along. They were dismantling the old bridge that had the New Mexico border signs on it; half of the bridge was gone.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2021, 06:24:13 PM by Bobby5280 »
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2021, 12:10:08 PM »

I just drove over Raton Pass at the beginning of October, and it was undergoing major construction work.  Surprised to hear that it's full of potholes already.
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2021, 03:48:44 PM »

I just drove over Raton Pass at the beginning of October, and it was undergoing major construction work.  Surprised to hear that it's full of potholes already.

Even with the construction work it is still one of the worst stretches of interstate highway that I have ever driven.
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #20 on: January 15, 2021, 04:03:26 PM »

Even with the construction work it is still one of the worst stretches of interstate highway that I have ever driven.

Wow, and you're from Ponca!  That's saying something, then...

I-35 from about ten years ago was pretty dang bad.
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #21 on: January 15, 2021, 04:08:41 PM »

I also believe New Mexico has one of the largest inventories of gravel surface State highways.

If we're excluding secondary/state-maintained county routes in VA/NC/WV/SC, they almost certainly have the largest outside of Alaska. NM has a handful of state routes that, given things I have read elsewhere, are unwise to attempt without a high-clearance vehicle. Kentucky has similarly-crappy routes in a few places, but at least those are all spurs or roads with reasonable alternates.
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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #22 on: January 15, 2021, 07:35:59 PM »

I also believe New Mexico has one of the largest inventories of gravel surface State highways.

If we're excluding secondary/state-maintained county routes in VA/NC/WV/SC, they almost certainly have the largest outside of Alaska. NM has a handful of state routes that, given things I have read elsewhere, are unwise to attempt without a high-clearance vehicle. Kentucky has similarly-crappy routes in a few places, but at least those are all spurs or roads with reasonable alternates.

Do you know which are the high clearance ones?  Would love to drive them.  :bigass:

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #23 on: January 15, 2021, 08:44:29 PM »

I also believe New Mexico has one of the largest inventories of gravel surface State highways.

If we're excluding secondary/state-maintained county routes in VA/NC/WV/SC, they almost certainly have the largest outside of Alaska. NM has a handful of state routes that, given things I have read elsewhere, are unwise to attempt without a high-clearance vehicle. Kentucky has similarly-crappy routes in a few places, but at least those are all spurs or roads with reasonable alternates.

Do you know which are the high clearance ones?  Would love to drive them.  :bigass:

Chris

165 is allegedly one of them. I looked at making it part of a loop involving Sandia Crest and decided against it when I read reports stating that the road was in very bad shape. 159 may be another.
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DJStephens

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Re: The sad state of Raton Pass
« Reply #24 on: January 18, 2021, 07:49:01 AM »

The US routes in northwest NM are another great example of the sad state of the roads down there. The US 550 four-lane was done in just about the cheapest way possible. Instead of building a second carriageway, they just built two more lanes separated by a small flush median with rumble strips. I would be shocked if this actually decreased the accident rate all that much.

At least they built a second carriageway on US 491 south of Shiprock...but it is not at all smooth. Southbound is easily the bumpiest 70 mph road I've ever been on. And the remaining 2-lane portion from Shiprock to the Colorado border is even worse. Entering NM on 491 (or really any other highway), the easiest way to identify the state line is a big BUMP followed by a much rougher road. You may or may not get a state welcome sign within a few miles.

There have been plenty of fatal head-on collisions on US-550 over the years. When asked by local media outlets as to whether NMDOT was considering safety improvements along 550--specifically cable barriers along the median, NMDOT officials stated they had no immediate plans to make US-550 safer. To put this into context, this question was brought up in 2017, right when the state used up everything it had to build that $200 million boondoggle in Albuquerque known as ART.  For that amount, NMDOT could have installed cable barriers along the entire length of US-550 from Bernalillo to Colorado and still have plenty of money left over to build interchanges at a few key junctions to improve safety along the 550 corridor.

Am of belief that up to 1.1 to 1.25 BILLION has been squandered on three pet projects, projects that benefit a handful of elites.  The "rail runner" Bill Richardson's fantasy train that "connects" Albuquerque and Santa Fe.  $550 Million and counting.  The spaceport, a joint fantasy effort between Richardson and Richard Branson.  "Personal spaceflight" for the rich, and celebrities. Believe it is at $275 Million and counting.  Albuquerque's ART/BRT "project" on Central Avenue.  Has almost completely destroyed the ambience and character of Central Ave, with its median mounted "stations" and curbing.   All this - is a state that is one of the poorest in the country, and trades many bottom of the barrel socioeconomic indicators with Mississippi, a state which has a far better highway/transportation department, imho. 
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