By Karl Terry: PNT managing editor
New Mexico Department of Transportation officials say they’re getting closer to determining the cause for failure of new pavement on N.M. 206 between Portales and Dora. A permanent fix isn’t likely until spring, however.
“Our lab has done quite a bit of testing and it looks like there’s a layer there where the mix didn’t bond with the aggregate,” NMDOT Engineer Gary Shubert said. “It’s worse on the north end obviously, but it’s showing signs that the whole strip (20 miles) will have to be redone.”
Shubert said engineers feel at this point the problem is with the chemistry of the oil and rock and not with the recycling process that was used on the road to save on the cost.
With testing still ongoing, Shubert wouldn’t speculate as to whether the problem was the fault of the contractor Brazier Construction of Colorado or the state. He said if the decision ends up in court, the state would start the project as soon as feasible.
Shubert said he doubts that work to replace the highway would begin before spring because of an up to three month bid process and possible weather problems.
The engineer also said the project could be phased over a couple of years.
Roosevelt County Commissioner Bill Cathey of Dora said he had been in touch with state highway officials about the problem. While he is not happy that it could be spring before it’s fixed, he wants to see it done right.
“I think if it will fix it and fix it right, we can put up with it for awhile,” Cathey said. “I’d rather not have a hurry-up patch job.”
Cathey said he was also concerned about safety issues if the road is not fixed as soon as possible.
Local NMDOT crews are doing regular work on the road to keep it as safe as possible, Shubert said. He said heat as well as moisture exacerbate the problem. As traffic pushes up ridges, crews have been blading those off and applying patches in sections.
“We’re going to keep an eye on it and try and keep it passable,” Shubert said.
A call to Brazier Construction was not returned.