Briefs

NM road repairs coming but more funding needed

By: - August 31, 2021 4:30 am

Rick Padilla, executive director of the state’s highway operations, told lawmakers they need to continue funding repairs to keep state roads from deteriorating. Shown here is North Broadway in Truth Or Consequences. (Photo by David Lienemann/Getty Images)

Roads and bridges owned by the state of New Mexico will need more funding or they will continue to deteriorate, the state’s top highway official told lawmakers Monday.

Executive Director of Highway Operations Rick Padilla said state-owned roads, highways and bridges have historically gotten worse and worse each year — except for the last three years when lawmakers gave the Department of Transportation more money for repairs and maintenance.

He said state-owned roads are in poorer condition and tend to deteriorate faster than those owned and maintained by the federal government through the National Highway System (NHS).

“We lost momentum in state roads, but graciously, you’ve given us money,” he said. “We’ve stopped the bleeding, but we are not making headway on non-NHS roads.”

Rep. Randal Crowder is a Republican from Clovis and a member of the Transportation Infrastructure Revenue Subcommittee.

“We have tried, as a body and in the Appropriations Committee,” he said, “to put a considerable amount of funds over there, and I would like to believe that we’re gaining ground.”

Overall, the department’s budget is showing signs of significant recovery compared with pre-pandemic levels and is even showing signs of growth over the last two years, said Chief Economist Laura Bianchini.

That is especially true for money the state collects from semi-truck weigh-ins and diesel fuel sales, she said. The good news is also that gas revenue, which was the revenue source most affected by the pandemic, has shown some “significant signs of recovery.”

By the end of the fiscal year in June, overall revenue for the department was up by 6% compared with the previous year, and was up by 3% compared with 2019.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.

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