New Mexico faces shortfall for transportation work

| 12/6/2005

Rising construction costs are draining New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s $1.6 billion transportation program. As a result, there’s not enough money for all the roadwork that was supposed to be done.

The transportation plan, dubbed GRIP for “Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership,” is being used to help finance a commuter rail service proposed between Belen and Santa Fe. As part of the project, the state is expected to purchase nearly 300 miles of rail from Belen to southern Colorado for $76 million, The Associated Press reported.

Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught said commuter rail costs aren’t to blame for the funding shortfall that could affect work on more than three-dozen roads authorized by the New Mexico General Assembly in 2003. She pointed the finger at the cost of construction.

Costs for steel, cement, asphalt and lumber have been rising significantly along with fuel prices, Faught told The AP.

Faught didn’t estimate how short the state was on highway financing. She said the New Mexico Department of Transportation was hammering out revised cost figures for projects and would give them soon to lawmakers.

The Legislative Finance Committee is expecting to get an update on budget issues from NMDOT this week. The panel reported last month that escalating construction costs were expected to boost the cost of roadwork in the GRIP plan by at least $60 million.

Lawmakers told The AP they are bracing for a potentially larger increase when Faught gives them updated cost estimates.