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A public meeting was held Wednesday evening to hear a presentation on the planned replacement of the New Mexico 90 Hudson Street Bridge near downtown Silver City and for the New Mexico Department of Transportation to hear residents' concerns and ideas.

Eric Johnson, senior environmental project manager from Marron and Associates, facilitated the meeting and gave the presentation.

He also said he would return to the area later to discuss what is planned for New Mexico 15, also known as Pinos Altos Road, from U.S. 180 to 32nd Street.

"The purpose of the meeting tonight is to discuss the Hudson Street Bridge project and the detour route," Johnson said. He gave a short PowerPoint presentation, showing the agency coordination needed, including with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers because of San Vicente Creek running under the bridge, the state Historic Preservation Office to oversee any cultural resources that might be impacted, and the Environment Department to review any contaminated areas and address possible endangered species.

"The bridge has a life span," Johnson said. "This one is at the end of its serviceable life and is due for replacement. We will demolish the existing bridge and construct a new wider bridge, including bicycle lanes, wider shoulders and a sidewalk. The bridge will span San Vicente Arroyo and the trail. We may reduce the vertical opening under the bridge to maintain the same road elevation. We are considering two and four span options."

The project includes upgrading lighting and replacing signs, as well as aesthetics, pavement improvements, roadway striping, drainage improvements and utility coordination. The official detour route is the county Truck Bypass Road to U.S. 180 West and back through Silver City to Hudson and Silver Heights Boulevard.

Environmental location assessment studies will be performed to look at human and wildlife habitat, water and wetlands, open space and trails, hazardous materials, land use, socioeconomics, recreation and visual resources.

The department will do additional surveys, prepare the project plans, develop environmental clearance, determine right-of-way requirements and prepare bid documents, before construction begins in 2014.

Audience members had questions and Tisha Lujan of the NMDOT answered them.

The first resident asked if the DOT had considered building the new bridge alongside the old one and demolishing the old one when the new one was complete.

Lujan said there was not enough room to build the new one alongside and a lot of required blasting would have significantly increased the cost.

Gerald Schultz, Tyrone resident, noted the detour would put a lot of traffic on the Bypass Road.

Lujan concurred, but said the plans would also include bringing the road back up to its present condition at the end of the project, as well as putting in extra lanes where it meets 180.  "We have considered having large mining equipment travel through Deming back up to Chino Mines."

A resident asked if the bridge would be "pleasing to the eye."

Bill Hutchinson said the department would allow the public to weigh in on aesthetics.  

Lujan explained the project had limited funding.

A resident asked if any consideration had been made to have bicycle trails up Mountain View Road through the golf course over to Ridge Road.

"We didn't consider that, but we do understand that the detour will significantly increase traffic on 180," Lujan said.

In reference to resurfacing the Bypass Road at the end of the project, a resident said other residents had told him, the road was not built or designed to hold trucks-the bed or the surface.

"We will require the contractor to maintain the Bypass Road during construction," Lujan said. "We will not improve it. It is a county-owned road."

A resident asked the length of the bridge.

Lujan said the present bridge was built in 1972 and is 486.9 feet long. "The new one will be a bit longer at 522 feet. We will not raise the bridge, so we don't see any issues."

A resident said in the middle 90s, he complained about the unsafe bridges in the community, and the one to be replaced was one of them. He commented that the guardrails are only two-feet high, and not sufficient to protect pedestrians or children picking up trash under the supervision of teachers. "I would like to see something installed protecting pedestrians."

Lujan said the plans would have railings for protection, with the sidewalk on one side, six-foot shoulders and bike lanes.

Another resident said those living on the southeast side of the bridge will have trouble getting to town or the Senior Center with the sidewalk only on the west side.

"There is no connectivity now," Lujan said. "We are not planning to put in more sidewalks."

One resident commented that both ends of the bridge are curved and asked if it would be straightened. Lujan said it would not be straightened, because it meets design standards.

Town Councilor José Ray asked why, if there were bicycle lanes on both sides, there could not be sidewalks on both sides.

"We will put that on the table and discuss it," Lujan said.

Schultz asked how the detour would affect the several traffic lights coming into town on 180, especially the light heading eastward on 180, where one turns left to continue on 180.

Lujan said the signals would be retimed. "We will have a discussion with the town on the issue. Yes, I agree it will be an inconvenience."

Another resident asked about mitigation to allow access to the open space trailhead.

Lujan said parking for the trails would be limited. "We will protect what is under that bridge. We have not looked at how to access the trailheads. We also need to talk to the property owner under the bridge to help him access his business."

A questioner asked if there were any contingency for improving Cooper Street to Broadway, as additional car traffic is likely to occur there.

"We have not discussed that with the district," Lujan said. "It may warrant another signal. We realize that a lot of traffic that the bridge carries now will go onto Broadway and Cooper streets."

A resident noted that there are a number of speed bumps on Cooper Street. "I'm not sure they will be welcome to people using it."

Lujan said the department could not help remove speed bumps.

A resident asked about a timeline on the project.  Lujan said bids would be let in the fall of 2013. "We are hoping construction will begin in late April 2014. It will take at least eight to 10 months to construct. Since we will not have a detour on the bridge, we can do it quicker. We need the good temperatures for all the concrete pouring we will do."

Jeremiah Garcia of Texas-New Mexico Power Company asked about the plans to demolish the bridge. "I have gas lines in that area."

Sherman Peterson of the NMDOT said the contractor would have to consider utilities. "It will be addressed by the demolition contractor."

Lujan said she deals with all the utilities and getting the surveys done. She noted that the top of the bridge would be thicker than the present bridge at three-to–four feet thick.

Trent Botkin, member of the NMDOT team, said he did not believe there were endangered species in the area, but cultural artifacts may be found. "We will do archaeological and biological surveys. Nothing will be impacted. It will be returned to its present or better state."

A resident asked if the various improvements and changes would be viewed as one contract.

"Yes," Lujan said. "The improvements to 180 at the end of Bypass Road will probably happen first, but it will be one contractor."

A resident asked how the tourism community is going to react. "I fear people will hear that the New Mexico 90 bridge is out."

Lujan said the Tourism Department would be included in the agency coordination.

Another asked about public information in Deming and Lordsburg during construction. "The public information officer will deal with that," Lujan said.

Nick Seibel, Silver City MainStreet Project manager, requested that because there would be a significant amount of dirt work under the bridge while it was being worked on, and with one of the major linkages of the Greenways Plan in the location, whether the dirt could be moved to where it enhanced the trail system.

Hutchinson said it would be considered. Seibel said if the department and the town worked together, "after the construction we could wind up with something better."

Traci Burnsed, Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments transportation director, asked how far ahead signage would begin.

"We usually begin about one mile out, but with two construction areas (the one at 180 and Bypass road and the bridge), we will consider signage so tourists know how to get to town," Lujan said.

The owner of the property under the bridge said he had concerns. Lujan said the issues were the first things that needed to be looked at. "I am envisioning a shortcut, but we will absolutely accommodate you. I don't have the surveys yet."

A resident asked how many more public meetings there would be.

"At least three more," Lujan said, "depending on participation. Between now and the next one, we will do the 30 percent plan. After that we will have the 60 percent plan and then the final plan."

Seibel asked if a citizen committee had been considered.

"It is not planned" Lujan said. "I'll be here as often as I need to be. This tonight is very preliminary. We are about three months or so looking at bridge plans. We will come back about April."

Schultz asked about the estimated cost. "$10 million," Lujan replied.

A NMDOT team member suggested the bridge could be a gateway to town, but "we can't do it. Perhaps the city and MainStreet can do it phased."

To a question about what would happen if the department did not get enough funding, Lujan said: "The bridge is still safe, but we will find the funds. It is a District 1 priority."

She said the next meeting would be around April and, in the meantime, she would be talking to property owners who would be most impacted by the construction.

Live from Silver City

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