Senator Siah Correa Hemphill Secures Funding for Local Highway Project and Community Hospital

(Santa Fe) - Today in the New Mexico Senate, two bills that would have lasting, positive impact on southwest New Mexico advanced through the legislature: one to help jumpstart the next phases of the highway 180 expansion project and a second supporting the Gila Regional Medical Center.

“I’m pleased to announce today that funding has been secured for additional phases of the highway 180 expansion project,” said Senator Correa Hemphill (D-Silver City). “Adding lanes to U.S. 180 is important for both safety and economic development for the region and I’m happy that this funding will get us beyond the initial phase of this local project.” Correa Hemphill worked with the Department of Transportation, Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales, and Chair of Senate Finance George Muñoz to include $70 million in funding through Senate Bill 300, which passed today in the Senate Finance Committee on a unanimous vote.

In 2022, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Lt. Governor Howie Morales announced $25 million in funding for phase one of the project to widen U.S. 180. The bulk of that funding was sourced from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, with the state supplying money from the road fund and general fund. Phase one, scheduled to begin this summer, will widen a portion of U.S. 180 to four lanes, realign the road over existing railroad tracks, remove the Hurley overpass, rehabilitate pavement and make improvements at intersections.

Phase two, from south of the railroad crossing near Hurley to the junction with N.M. 61, a little more than 14 miles, is now one step closer to reality thanks to the additional funding.

“Thanks to the work of Senator Correa Hemphill and her advocacy as a member of the Senate Finance Committee, we can now move right into the next phase of the Highway 180 expansion project,” said Lt. Governor Howie Morales, who as a state senator began advocating for the project in 2008. “It’s good to see this project funded as it will bring safer roadways and greater economic opportunities to southwest New Mexico.”

Another bill focused on rural hospitals also moved forward today. Senate Bill 161 appropriates $50 million from the general fund to the Health Care Authority for expenditure in FY25 and FY26 to provide subsidies to smaller acute care hospitals. The subsidies are meant to cover certain revenue losses realized due to services provided that may not be fully reimbursed such as emergency medical services, maternal and child health, and in-patient unit care. While the Gila Regional Medical Center was not originally on the list of hospitals included in the bill, Senator Correa Hemphill advocated for and won over approval to add the facility onto the list. The Medical Center will now be eligible to receive up to $5.7 million dollars over the next two fiscal years.

“Rural and regional hospitals are quite literally the heart of our communities,” said Senator Correa Hemphill. “I have been happy to work with Lieutenant Governor Howie Morales to secure funding to assist Gila Regional over the years with capital outlay. And now, by adding them to the list of hospitals in SB 161, I hope some of the additional burdensome and very real financial pressures will be eased, allowing the Center to continue prioritizing the health and well-being of local residents.”

“New Mexico has been blessed with an incredible surplus of money again this year, which gives us the opportunity to take care of some of our most critical needs,” said Chair of Senate Finance George Muñoz. “But while the resources are great they are not unlimited. I appreciate the efforts and advocacy from colleagues like Senator Correa Hemphill who fight hard for their districts and help us prioritize where taxpayer money needs to go.”

Senate Bill 161 next goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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