By Alisa Boswell
The time has come at last to complete a road construction project almost a full year behind its original completion date.
The $8.3 million state road reconstruction project on U.S. 70 in Portales began in May 2012 and was intended to be a one-year project.
But after numerous setbacks, mostly due to weather, the project is in its third and final phase of construction nearly two years after its start date.
Road crews began working on the project again last week after a two-month winter break.
Constructors Inc. Project Manager John Guldemann said the last phase is expected to be complete sometime in June, at which time his company will perform tasks from its “punch list,” which entails going back through the project to complete landscape, touch up things and correct minor mistakes that may have been made.
The road project has included new curb, gutters, sidewalks and lighting, along with the new concrete roadway.
Although Guldemann said the main setback with the project was weather, the endeavor was plagued by a variety of other issues throughout last year with complaints coming in from residents and city officials concerning uneven points in the new road and new street lights sitting too low.
Constructors Inc. officials told residents and city officials last year that the uneven points in the road, such as the bump on Second Street and Avenue E, could not be fixed because that portion of the road was already completed and the bump was part of the official design by the New Mexico Department of Transportation for the purpose of shedding water across Second Street.
However, other issues concerning the project have been and are being resolved, according to Guldemann and Portales Public Works Director John DeSha.
Guldemann and DeSha said the city is working closely with Constructors Inc. to design new light poles for the downtown street lights, which are currently less than 15 feet tall.
In January, city officials expressed concerns about commercial trucks hitting the low-hanging lights.
NMDOT officials said Portales MainStreet officials designed the lights but city officials denied having any part in the decision.
“That’s something we’re very, very involved in (now),” DeSha said. “There is a manufacturing representative coming down for the lights next week and we will be involved with talking to him.”
Guldemann said he hopes for the street lights on the corners of Main Avenue and First and Second streets, which remain non-operational two months after their completion, to be operating in a month or two.
He said his crews were missing a necessary fiber optic piece for the lights, which required approval through NMDOT.
Guldemann said despite setbacks with the project, he feels for a project of its size and longevity, it went smoothly and problems could have been much worse.
“Any problems that we’ve had, we’ve worked very well together,” he said in reference to city officials. “Any problems we had that we needed the city’s help with, they always did the best they could for us.”
Guldemann said as with other phases of the project, Constructors Inc. officials will communicate with business owners and residents about the impacts the phase will have on business access.
“One tough thing about this last phase is normally, in other phases, we had a median, so you could always get to something from the median,” Guldemann said. “The problem with this next phase is we’re going to be working on the outside lane on both sides (of the road) at the same time, so both those businesses at the end of this last phase (such as Daylight Donuts) will have to be accessed by going around and taking back routes through alleys and such. There will be no access from the highway.”
Guldemann said the company will put out directional signs for drivers as they have before but access for a couple of Portales businesses will not be easy.