Plans for railroad overpass due to be submitted

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

Final plans for the construction of a railroad overpass on state Road 467 are due to be submitted Monday to the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Officials from the state and county road departments met Aug. 11 in Albuquerque to finalize plans for a railroad overpass that will serve residents in southwest Curry County.

Construction on the $3.65 million project is expected to begin in January.

Representatives from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Parson Brinckerhoff Engineering were also present at the planning meeting.

Curry County Commissioner Ed Perales said the overpass project has been in the works since the railroad crossing at Wheaton Road was closed approximately 2 1/2 years ago. Davis said the county closed the Wheaton Road crossing to make room for expansion of BNSF’s Clovis rail yard.

Davis said 467 is a state highway, but Curry County has stepped in due to the number of residents living in the area.

Approximately 1,200 county residents reside in the Wheat Ridge, Double A, South Valley and Buchanan subdivisions, he said.

Currently these residents have no way to enter Clovis without crossing a railroad track, Davis said.

Curry County Manager Dick Smith said the wait to cross the tracks can be as long as 40 minutes, which could pose a problem for emergency services needing quick access to one of the neighborhoods.

Perales said he thinks the construction of an overpass will give residents living on the west side easier access to the hospital.

The state ($1 million) and federal government ($2 million) will pick up the bulk of the construction costs. Curry County has allocated $500,000 for sidewalks and guardrails while the railroad will contribute 10 percent of the total cost.

The railroad agreed to pay 10 percent of the cost as part of an agreement with the county to close the Wheaton crossing.

Officials from the Curry County Road Department estimate the project will take nine to 20 months to complete.

Smith and Perales agree the overpass will improve the area, but traffic problems won’t be entirely alleviated until an overpass is built at Martin Luther King Boulevard.

“The county believes an overpass at MLK is very important,” Smith said.

According to officials, the proposed Martin Luther King overpass project is in the planning stages but could take up to 10 years to complete.