Highway problems baffling

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

A section of road between Portales and Dora on N.M. 206 has been the center of controversy after the recently refurbished road began to ripple and come apart, causing area residents concern for the safety of the highway.

According to Gary Shubert, District II Engineer for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, officials, contractors and suppliers are working closely together to find the cause of the road’s deterioration and a solution to fix the problem.

“We’re just trying to figure out what’s happening,” Shubert said.

Early estimates show that the oil is being washed from the rocks, a process known as stripping. Though the process is known to happen occasionally, it is a rarity for this area. Other possibilities include a combination of temperature, truck traffic and moisture, Shubert said.

“Frankly, we’re not real sure what’s going on with it,” Shubert said.

Tests of the asphalt are being conducted by the NMDOT lab in Santa Fe and also by Holly Asphalt, based out of Albuquerque and Artesia. The company was responsible for supplying the asphalt for the N.M. 206 job. According to Shubert, the company has a good reputation.

“They’ve been associated with us for years and they’re just as concerned as us about what is going on,” Shubert said.

For John Pugh, who lives one-half mile south of Portales, the road has been a sore spot for him since it’s recent completion and subsequent detoriation.

“I just hope that we haven’t paid for the job,” Pugh said.

Pugh is concerned that payment for repairing the road will come from the pockets of taxpayers, something he feels is unfair. He said it should be up to the contractor to replace the road and also refund the state for their part in having to maintain the highway for travel, he said.

“I hate to see the taxpayers pay for the job. I would like to see them (contractors) replace the whole road for free,” he said.

Until all the tests are conducted, it is still up in the air as to who will have to pay for fixing the highway. If the contractor is responsible, they will have to pay for the road. If the deterioration is something beyond the contractor’s control, it is possible that the state will pick up the cost. Another possibility is the cost could be shared, Shubert said.

“That’s why it’s important to find out why this has occurred,” Shubert said.

In the meantime, Shubert will be in Portales on Tuesday evening to attend the Portales City Council meeting. He also plans to continue keeping the line of communication open with area officials and residents, he said.

“We’re going to keep talking to the people and let them know what we find out,” Shubert said.