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Public Works Director Briefs County Council On Roads

on March 15, 2019 - 8:46am
Public Works Department Director Philo Shelton presents the status of local road conditions during the County Council meeting Tuesday night at the White Rock Fire Station. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/
Los Alamos Daily Post
From potholes to roundabouts, the streets around Los Alamos have recently received a lot of attention. As a result, Public Works Department Director Philo Shelton reported on various efforts for road maintenance during Tuesday night’s Los Alamos County Council work session at the White Rock Fire Station.
His report focused on the following topics: pavement preservation policy, winter damage on Diamond Drive, improvements planned for the intersection at 36th Street and Trinity Drive, improvements to the N.M. 4 and Truck Route intersection and N.M. 502 and DP Road projects.
Regarding the County’s pavement preservation policy, Shelton said the Council endorsed the policy in 2007. The policy’s objective, according to the report, is to proactively maintain and preserve acceptable pavement conditions for County roadways. It also plans and allocates money for pavement preservation and preventative maintenance. This includes surface treatments such as crack, fog and slurry seals as well as thin overlays. Also included is road reconstruction.
The report states that if funding levels do not allow for all methods, preservation treatments will have a higher priority.
The policy also calls for maintaining a pavement assessment management system, which is a software program, and conducting field assessments every five years.
The last assessment was done in 2016. Shelton explained all County-owned roads are rated according to a pavement condition index. One is the worst and 100 is the best. The goal is to have County streets to have an average pavement condition index rating of 70, he said.
Looking at a chart for pavement condition indexes last year, 30 percent of County roads were rated fair, 61-76, and 28 percent received a good ranking, 77-85. The chart further shows 21 percent were rated satisfactory, 51-60, 7 percent were rated excellent, 86-100, and 14 percent were given a poor rating, 0-50.
Councilor Antonio Maggiore asked if it was known what the current pavement condition indexes are for Diamond Drive, but Shelton said it was not known.
“Today’s rainstorm wasn’t helping the roads, too,” Shelton said.
Maintaining and preserving pavement is a balancing act, he said.
According to the report, “A successful pavement management program provides a balance of addressing the backlog of poor facilities while also maintaining or preserving those in acceptable condition thereby extending pavement life and quality and thus delaying increased costs of more extensive rehabilitation or full replacement in the near future.”
In the FY19 budget, Shelton reported that $700,000 was budgeted for pavement preservation and road maintenance and $1.95 million was budgeted for road rehabilitation and reconstruction. One street, Diamond Drive, has a been a hot topic of discussion. The winter weather has left this major roadway riddled with deep potholes.
Shelton said, “It’s amazing how it deteriorated that quickly. I have not seen this kind of thing happen (before).”
He said the County contracted a company, which did six core samples along the road and discovered the road’s polymer binder in the pavement allowed for water to drain into the road’s surface. Shelton explained this is a safety measure to allow vehicles to increase traction. However, the polymer has aged and deteriorated quite rapidly. In short, it is at the end of its useful life.
Therefore, Shelton said the company recommended doing a mill-in lay and using a standard asphalt mixture to resolve the issue. 
The total cost estimate for the work is $3.75 million, according to the presentation.
To help fund the work, Shelton said the County has applied for Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Management (DHSEM) Disaster Assistance Program (DAP) funds. The total requested amount is $4.3 million.
Council Vice Chair Pete Sheehey said, “I agree with you on Diamond – (it) looks like standard, old-fashioned asphalt is going to last longer.”
Sheehey asked if the prospect of being awarded the DAP funds looked good.
Shelton said the state agency encouraged the County to submit for the funds so “We’re encouraged but until the agreement is in place, I can’t commit to it.”
Shelton also touched on several upcoming road projects in his presentation. These include doing improvements at the intersection at 36th Street and Trinity Drive as well as the intersection of N.M. 4 and the Truck Route. He also discussed the upcoming road project on N.M. 502 and DP Road.
The improvements to the 36th Street and Trinity Drive intersection are the result of The Hills apartment complex that will be built on land that was the site of the former Los Alamos Site Office, near the Los Alamos Medical Center.
While no recommendation has been made yet, five options are being discussed, Shelton said. Four were presented to the Transportation Board and the board asked that a fifth option be reviewed. The first four propose different variations of a four-way intersection and the fifth option proposes a “road diet” or rearranging the four-lane road into two lanes, each going in an opposite direction, as well as having a middle turn lane and bike lanes on either side.
Another intersection, at N.M. 4 and the Truck Route, also is being considered for improvements. The proposed changes include:
  • Reduce the speed limit on northbound N.M. 4 from 50 mph to 45 mph.
  • Extend the northbound acceleration lane on N.M. 4 910 feet to provide longer merges for traffic turning left on East Jemez Road.
  • Extend the westbound acceleration lane on East Jemez Road to the truck inspection station and make it a right turn only lane.
  • The east leg of the intersection will require an additional right-of-way if constructed with this project.
  • Adding a second eastbound left turn lane on East Jemez Road
  • Adding a second northbound through lane on N.M. 4
  • Adding right and left turn bays for the proposed Tsankawi trailhead parking lot.
This is not just a project the County is involved in; numerous entities are stakeholders in it. These include the NNSA, Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, San Ildefonso Pueblo, Santa Fe County, the Department of Energy, New Mexico Department of Transportation and the New Mexico Environment Department.
The final major road project discussed was the project the state is planning along N.M. 502 and DP Road. The work begins March 18 and stretch less than a mile from N.M. 502, through Los Alamos between Knecht Street and Tewa Loop. This project will include roadway reconstruction, earthwork, curb and gutter, sidewalk, concrete retaining walls, storm drain, landscaping, permanent signing, lighting, traffic signalizations and utilities. The project also will replace the existing intersection at N.M .502 and Central Avenue with a roundabout. The project cost is $10.8 million.