Letter To The Editor: About N.M. 502 Project Cost And Starting Times

Los Alamos

Councilors and Manager,

This N.M. 502 project may be a state project, but LAC has funding participation AND is the requester of (1) the roundabout and (2) a different Canyon Road configuration than the state was planning to construct.

Seems there are some funny cost numbers being tossed around now and some others just not forthcoming.

This project has HAD to be started by the end of several FY deadlines or else funding would go away, the latest being September of this year. The Knecht-Tewa project HAS already BEGUN. It did so with the work from Knecht-DP to get Smith’s up and going! Persistent clamoring about the project needing to be started seems like just so much hot air.

The latest estimate of cost is $7.1M per the NMDOT rep (1). Does this estimate include all the work that has already been done in the Knecht-DP portion and along NM502 elsewhere by LAC? My guess is that it does NOT, as the latest NMDOT plan calls for scraping and resurfacing that stretch, only (2)! Has LAC spent its $1.5M commitment already in doing the major work on the Knecht-DP portion (3)? Or is LAC still on the hook for more funds: another $1.5M; with the NEW abbreviated work plan now at $7M? As I recall, the dual e-bound lanes were truncated before Tewa as a cost savings, as well as a LAC desire to eliminate as much dual as possible.

How much is the roundabout going to cost (with land ROW acquisitions)? How much is the lost land worth that its large foot print will occupy? What would a signalized intersection cost that needs no land acquisition, but, in fact, will add land value to the county’s park system?

Current council harps on cost efficiency and getting the best bang for their money. I would think that Council would want some firmer cost information, considering that LAC has financial participation in the funding of this construction with various “accessory options” (like a roundabout vs a standard signalized) included.

One would hope that Council would request firmer cost numbers (everything so far and further into the current plan with options) for this Knecht-Tewa project and provide them to the public via the press before making any final decision. There appears to have been some serious jockeying in defining and costing the project. No wonder there are no straightforward answers, when asked.

(1) Letter March 14, 2016 to W Mead from Byran Danielson “Our current estimate is $7.1 M but I expect that to go down a tad.  I’m sorry but the cost estimate doesn’t differentiate between roundabout costs and all the other roadway costs.” (Really! What kind of accounting is this? The cost of constructing the roundabout is UNKNOWN. Incredible. Yes, just incredible. How do you estimate the cost of something when you do not know the cost of its components? Or maybe they do not want us to know what % of the total $7M that roundabout is going to be lest we find out how much less a signalized intersection would cost! I suspect Parsons-Brinkerhoff could give LAC an estimate of the cost of a signal “inlay” in place the roundabout, in a very short time, if they asked!)

(2) From  NMDOT Jan 2016 Update  “The scope of improvements currently includes a mill-and-inlay of the existing asphalt between Knecht Street and DP Road” (So the $7M cost now does not include much here, except this pavement bit! Nothing else! Curbs-gutters, utilities have already been installed: this section represents 25% of the distance from Knecht to Tewa Loop (Google map), in case you are not aware ! Makes one wonder.)

(3) From  LAC PW pageThe roadway project limits of this New Mexico Department of Transportation project are on Trinity Drive, between Knecht Street to Tewa Loop. This project is funded in the FY2014 NMDOT District 5 State Transportation Improvement Program in the amount of $3.8 million. The County Capital Improvement Program has $1.125 million allocated for the County’s match. Total available funding is $4.925 million. Design is underway, with construction anticipated to begin in 2015.” (When did construction on Knecht to DP begin? Who paid? Why isn’t this project deemed underway? What design drawings did LAC use to do its construction?)