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(Elizabeth Lewis - Daily Press)

(Elizabeth Lewis – Daily Press)

Governor Susana Martinez and Tom Church, cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), presided over two separate groundbreakings Friday on important highway construction projects in the area.

These projects – located south of Carlsbad on U.S. 285 and west of Hobbs on N.M. 529 – include state funding of more than $3 million and $22 million respectively.

The governor’s first stop Friday was a press conference 285, where the road conditions are poor and the traffic heavy.

(Elizabeth Lewis - Daily Press)

(Elizabeth Lewis – Daily Press)

“I made sure $3.8 million was available to kick start this vital project from savings from other projects,” said Martinez. “This is a key corridor for commercial traffic and a well-traveled route that needs to be repaired immediately.”

U.S. 285 has been used for decades to transport waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which the governor addressed during the press conference.

“U.S. 285 plays an important role in the shipment of transuranic waste to WIPP,” said Martinez. “We’re proud of the work done at our national labs and high-tech facilities, and we’re dedicated to ensure the safety of our workers, our communities, and the environment.”

The WIPP was recently the subject of local and national headlines when a drum of waste from the Los Alamos National Laboratory ruptured in the repository. The state settled with the Department of Energy, which resolved all violations linked to the radiation accident.

“When the radiation leak happened at WIPP, we held the federal government accountable,” said Martinez. “We negotiated a settlement – the largest ever. The agreement requires the Department of Energy to pay $74 million to fund projects in and around Los Alamos and Carlsbad.”

The roadway construction on N.M. 529 is currently underway, with shoulder widening and extending of pipe structures from mile marker 22 to mile marker 31. The construction is expected to be complete in May. Roadway rehabilitation and roadway reconstruction from mile marker 0 to mile marker 22 began April 8 and will be complete in November 2017.

“Many of these roads aren’t safe, are too narrow, and are in need of dire repair,” said Martinez. “This wasn’t an easy thing to do because there was a lot of pushback from some members of the legislature – none from here because they certainly understand the desire and need to have their roads.

“We know that Eddy County plays a major role in our state’s economic growth; our roads are the literal foundation of commerce.”

Martinez pointed out that when the road was originally built, no one anticipated the amount of heavy traffic that so often drives through the area.

“529 was not designed to handle these heavy loads or sheer volume of traffic,” said the governor. “That’s why we’ve made funding our roads a top priority, especially in this area where there’s so much movement of large trucks and vehicles mixed in within it.”

Martinez said she is excited about both projects, as well as future improvements.

“I’m looking forward to sharing more good news with you in the future as more details become available,” said Martinez. “I want you to know we are committed to this part of the state, and we are making sure the roadways are safe.”