Here’s some updated information on the Bataan Memorial Bridge issue that might be helpful.
What is this project?
The New Mexico Department of Transportation District Two is conducting pier cap repair, bearing replacement and concrete repair on a portion of the Bataan Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Pecos River in east Carlsbad as part of U.S. 62-180/Greene Street. The project is expected to cost $1 million. This is not a City project, thought we play an advisory role and are now advocating for improvements to the detour plan.
What happened recently?
On Aug. 8, NMDOT (state) officials inspecting the Bataan Memorial Bridge observed that the condition on the north side of the bridge appeared to have gotten worse. They made an emergency decision to close the westbound lanes as a safety precaution.
Why is one part of the bridge still open, but not the other?
The Bataan Memorial Bridge actually consists of twin bridges, right next to each other. The northern bridge, which had been used for westbound traffic, is much older and is in need of repair. The southern bridge does not currently need repair.
Why were orange barrels placed on the highway for several weeks before any construction was taking place?
These barrels were placed to reduce traffic (and weight) on the westbound portion of the bridge.
Why wasn’t there more advance communication about the closure?
Unfortunately, the emergency closure made advance communication impossible. From the City’s side – we anticipated that such a closure (for construction) might be weeks or months down the road, which would have allowed us to assist with early notification.
Why was NM 200 used as the alternate route, instead of closer roads like Orchard and Muscatel?
According to state law, if a detour is required on a state highway (in this instance, U.S. 62-180), only another state highway can be used. The City of Carlsbad may develop a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the NMDOT, which would allow alternate routes to be used to help reduce travel times. This temporary solution is being examined.
Why weren’t the two eastbound lanes on the bridge divided into a single eastbound and single westbound lane?
This will be possible once safety concerns with the rail are sufficiently addressed. A BNSF track passes immediately to the west of Bataan Memorial Bridge, and there are crossing lights set up along this stretch. In order for this change to occur, modifications would have to be made to this crossing signal. Licensed professionals (“qualified flaggers”) could also be employed to assist with crossing. BNSF, the NMDOT and the City are all currently studying these options.
What’s happening next?
The City, NMDOT and BNSF are meeting on site this week to evaluate the options being considered. The City does not consider the present situation to be viable for six months and is advocating for immediate and long-term resolutions, especially modifying the train signal to allow single lane traffic along the bridge in both directions.
Finally, we’d like to remind everyone to NOT use the eastbound lanes for westbound traffic. This creates an extreme safety risk to everyone in the area. While this issue has created a massive obstacle to our City, traffic injuries and fatalities will only make a bad situation much worse.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway