Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

City hosts freight plan session


September 16, 2014

QSC Managing Editor

Safety and road maintenance led the concerns of participants in a workshop held Friday in Tucumcari to discuss issues to be addressed for north and central eastern New Mexico before 2040 in the state’s long-range plan for transportation.

The meeting was designed to gather information from interested persons about issues and concerns related to trucking and rail freight transportation the northeastern and Eastern Plains portions of New Mexico, Claude Morelli, project manager for developing the state’s transportation plan, said. Morelli said the area covered in this meeting included eastern counties from Union to Roosevelt.

After Morelli and Paul Sittig, an urban, regional and freight planner for the transportation department, presented an overview of their findings in the first phase of plan development, those who attended divided into groups to discuss regional issues related to freight transportation.

The groups listed safety concerns involving roadways and rail crossings, as well as the condition of some roads and capacity issues, mostly for trucking, after their discussions.

One group recommended stronger enforcement of driving under the influence laws , and improving infrastructure and making rural city centers more attractive as ways to encourage more commercial traffic in northeastern region.

Another group suggested improved safety at rail crossings, widening U.S. 54 to four lanes throughout its route from Nara Visa to El Paso, Texas.

A third group, made up mostly of transportation professionals, spoke in terms of facilities in the state that could load and unload oil, and better working relations between local, regional and state officials.

Before the meeting, the planners had already determined that key issues in northeast New Mexico involved preserving freight and passenger rail service and the condition of Interstate 25, Interstate 40 and U.S. 54.

The Southwest Chief passenger rail route from Los Angeles to Chicago makes stops in Las Vegas and Raton.

In southeast New Mexico, which Friday’s meeting included portions of, the planners have listed concerns with heavy truck impacts on highway maintenance, better access to rail service and oversize vehicles.

In a statewide survey, the planners learned that most respondents were business that employ fewer than 100 people and trucks were the most popular mode of freight transportation. The highest priorities among most of the respondents were road quality, access to customers, cargo security, and time in transit. Their chief concern was pavement quality and highway maintenance was the key future need.

Morelli said the planners are also looking at new technologies that may develop, including driverless vehicles and are considering developments like separate routes for autos and trucks.

The freight plan, Morelli said will guide future freight investment, address current and future bottlenecks, both physical and administrative, focus new investments in areas of critical need and promote economic development.

The planners, he said, also plan to identify a freight network within the state and coordinate with adjacent states to ensure smooth transitions across state lines.


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