New Mexico Gets a GRIP on I-40 Corridor in Albuquerque

Tue April 28, 2009 - West Edition
Rebecca Ragain




Five years ago in June, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson opened bids for highway reconstruction and transportation enhancement projects under a $1.6-billion economic stimulus package called Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership, or GRIP.

By January 2009, New Mexico contractors had been awarded 90 percent of GRIP projects valued at $848 million, putting an estimated 4,000 New Mexicans to work.

Although that’s less than one percent of New Mexico’s total construction jobs in February 2009, GRIP could still be at least part of the reason that New Mexico’s construction industry fared better from February 2008 to 2009 (9.4 percent loss in employment) than two neighboring states, Colorado (11.6 loss) and Arizona (26.8 loss.).

Many GRIP projects have been located in the Albuquerque area, along the I-40 corridor. Completed projects include reconstruction of I-40 from San Mateo Boulevard to Pennsylvania ($20 million) and the I-40/Coors interchange reconstruction ($91 million), which called for a new bridge that is 100 ft. (30.5 m) wide and 345 ft. (105 m) long.

Another I-40 corridor project, the I-40/San Mateo Interchange, is currently keeping busy about 100 employees of Albuquerque-based contractor, A.S. Horner. The $42-million GRIP project, which broke ground in late October, is on schedule to be completed in November.

San Mateo Boulevard is one of the busiest streets in Albuquerque, handling 50,000 cars per day, and traffic is expected to grow to more than 60,000 vehicles over the next 20 years.

The San Mateo Interchange crossing I-40 was built in the 1960s and had become inadequate for today’s traffic flow. The improvements A.S. Horner is implementing include the reconstruction and widening of I-40, the replacement of the bridge that carries San Mateo Boulevard over I-40, and updating the interchange geometry to a modified diamond, with a northbound to westbound loop.

The initial design called for a straightforward diamond interchange, but right of way issues complicated the situation. Charles Johnson, general superintendent with A.S. Horner, noted that the modified diamond interchange was a neat solution: “There’s not much right of way here, [so it’s difficult] to get traffic in and out and to safely maneuver…[the modified diamond] is a nice little layout for how the traffic will be handled.”

The overpass portion of the project is divided into two phases.

The first phase is nearly complete. Crews have built the northbound bridge and reconstructed San Mateo Boulevard’s northbound lanes. Foundation work for the sound barriers was 80 percent complete the first week of April and pre-cast panels were being received from the supplier.

The second phase began with the demolition of the old overpass, scheduled for the first week of April. Then construction got underway on the new southbound bridge and lanes.

Complications thus far have included old, deteriorated infrastructure such as water and sewer lines. Johnson said: “Every time we got around them, we had a busted water line that we had to repair. That takes a little effort to take care of and slows the process down a little.”

Traffic control also is a challenge. Because San Mateo Boulevard is a main artery, two lanes have to be maintained in each direction. Only at night can crews close the boulevard in either direction.

Crews also are reconstructing I-40 for 7,500 ft. (2,286 m) in each direction. Local subcontractor Guzman Construction Solutions finished the dirtwork over the winter. Paving is approximately 25 percent complete, with 20,000 tons of asphalt laid.

Used on the project was a fleet including Caterpillar 950H and Volvo L90 loaders, Caterpillar 140 graders, and a combination of Volvo and Komatsu excavators.

Drainage improvements, signals and lighting, noise mitigation solutions, bicycle and pedestrian routes, and landscaping/aesthetic improvements also are part of the I-40/San Mateo Interchange project.

Johnson said that completing the $42-million project in approximately 400 calendar days has kept A.S. Horner employees and subcontractors — including Anderson Drilling, surveyors BSN Santa Fe, and McDade-Woodcock for electrical and street lighting — on their toes.

“We’ve got to produce, and with 100 employees and all that equipment out here, it’s tight,” said Johnson.

The project is the last piece of I-40 corridor reconstruction through Albuquerque, according to the New Mexico Department of Transportation. CEG