San Juan County Commission considers rebuilding NM Highway 173

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AZTEC, N.M. — In San Juan County, there is an 18-mile stretch of rough and rugged highway that connects people to a popular recreational area. Now the county commission is considering taking action to tear up and rebuild the road. 

It’s New Mexico Highway 173 — built in 1963 shortly after Navajo Dam was completed.

“Hundreds of volunteers and they got together and they just came out and built the road all the way to the dam, they did it for free and so in doing that they built the road as fast as they could which was in 3 months – which is just crazy,” said Steve Lanier, county commissioner for District 3.

What was once an unimaginable achievement is now crumbling, especially in some spots which can create some dangerous conditions.

“There are two sand washes on this highway and when they wash out it just creates a dangerous situation because it takes out what little shoulder is there and washes it completely away –and the state comes in and they try to fix it and rebuild but during the monsoon season I bet they re-built it four to five times just this year,” Lanier said.

The road is riddled with potholes, fast traffic, 22 blind spots and little to no shoulder. The county commission is considering asking the state to allocate funding not to just repair the road.

“It truly needs to be completely re-engineered we need a new surface we need the highway widened,” Lanier said.

Especially when more people are on that road in order to take in the views.

“We are asking the state to fund it, it is their highway, it’s a need that will benefit the whole state,” Lanier added. “We have a gorgeous state, let’s get people from out of state here and draw them in, but we got to get them here safety or they will never come back.”

The county commission will discuss the resolution Tuesday to call on the New Mexico Department of Transportation to rebuild Highway 173. It would be a big project with an estimated cost of $40 million.