Snow, construction causes heavy I-40 traffic

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GALLUP, N.M. – A wreck and ongoing construction have snarled traffic once again Wednesday.

Western I-40 is a lot clearer than it was this morning, but construction about 20 miles outside of Gallup is still causing a traffic backup in eastbound lanes.

“They’re replacing a bridge and the interstate is down to one lane, and as people try to climb that large hill — just east of where you’re sitting right now — they’re having a difficult time getting up that hill with the icy conditions. And then it’s pushing from three lanes of eastbound traffic down into one for the construction zone,” said Sheriff James Maiorano with the McKinley County Sheriff’s office. 

Construction isn’t the only thing holding up traffic on this stretch of freeway. The McKinley County Sheriff says a semi-truck got tangled up in the wires between the east and westbound lanes near the New Mexico-Arizona border.

“We’re seeing backups on Interstate 40 from mile marker eight near the Arizona state line all the way back to the west side of Gallup. There’s about eight or nine miles of backup out there where traffic is at a complete standstill,” said Maiorano. 

This is just the latest of 20 crashes that have happened along the Grants-Gallup corridor since Sunday.

“The large majority of these collisions are traffic related involving either four wheelers or semi-trucks. However, we’ve had no major injury, and we’ve had no fatalities over the weekend. So that’s a great thing,” Maiorano said. 

The sheriff attributes rough road conditions over the past few days to heavy traffic in the area. Higher elevation, large hills and bridges already cause problems for drivers without the added issues of ice and snow.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation says it has more than a dozen crews working around the clock to keep roads clear between Grants and Gallup.

“I think the only challenge is just you know, having the storms back-to-back. I mean, you know, as soon as they clear it, here comes another one and completely covers the roads. So, you know, that’s challenging, the amount of traffic on I-40 is challenging, and of course, these winds and temperatures do not help at all,” said Delane Baros with NMDOT District 6.