Letter to the Editor: Funding Sound Wall Maintenance Questioned

Los Alamos

The artistic renditions of the “Great Eastern Area Wall” into town along N.M. 502 are finally available for Los Alamos citizens to ponder. The wall will provide some relief for the homes that abut East Drive. The wall is being funded ($655,000 appropriated) by Los Alamos County because such a wall is not justified for state and federal funding (based on federal and state noise guidelines.) I have not heard what the maintenance costs would be, nor whether they have even been determined.

According to the County Dept. of Public Works website, “Staff is continuing to work toward a maintenance agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT); however, progress is slow. While records for the area in question are cryptic, staff believes that the current proposed location of the wall resides within the right of way that the NMDOT manages.”

This is akin to my building a fence on my benevolent neighbor’s property and then expecting my neighbor to keep it in fine repair and accept any liability for it. So, Los Alamos County wants the state to allow them to build a wall on state property (right of way) and then expects the state (all of New Mexico) to maintain a wall that the NM Dept. of Transportation (NMDOT) cannot even justify, so that the citizens of Los Alamos County, the wealthiest in the state, are relieved of long term maintenance and liability of something they independently have chosen to construct.

It is not sufficient that NMDOT should agree to a bit of property encroachment – get a foot, want a mile. NMDOT could simply say “no” to having the wall on their right of way at all.

Of course, the wall will be more expensive than the cost to design and build it; just like the maintenance of our homes and public buildings, especially huge ones. The cost of things is not just the initial building cost, but all the ancillary factors, the long-term upkeep of them all and the liability to be incurred by even constructing something.

If Los Alamos County is going to build the wall for its residents along East Drive, it should at least have the propriety to maintain it and not dump the responsibility on others.