Roadwork underway on three highways

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Roadwork on three major highways in Taos County is expected to cause traffic delays this week.

The four-month installation of natural gas pipeline in the Río Grande Gorge began last week, though a one-lane closure of State Road 68 went into effect Monday (Aug. 7), according to New Mexico Gas Company, which is financing and directing the $14 million project.

The pipeline - Taos County's only source of natural gas, which the gas company purchases from producers mostly in the San Juan Basin - currently runs along the west side of the Río Grande between Rinconada and Pilar, where shifting soils have put the pipeline at risk of rupture for at least the past three decades. Six miles of new pipeline is being buried on the east side of Sate Road 68.

One lane of the highway will be closed Mondays to Saturdays through November, when the company anticipates construction will finish. One-mile segments of the road will be closed at a time, starting near mile marker 30 north of Pilar.

Flaggers will direct traffic through the gorge, with 15- to 30-minute delays expected, according to the company.

As part of the pipeline construction, the company is promoting alternative routes in and out of the county. However, one of the primary alternatives - U.S. 64 to Ojo Caliente and Tres Piedras - will also experience delays this week as the New Mexico Department of Transportation conducts an annual inspection of the Río Grande Gorge Bridge.

Traffic on the bridge will be reduced to one lane, with delays expected from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Weather permitting, the inspection will finish up Friday (Aug. 11), according to the department.

During the inspection, no oversized loads or overweight loads will be allowed on U.S. 64 between the U.S. 64/U.S. 285 junction in Tres Piedras and the U.S. 64/State Road 522 junction in El Prado.

Also potentially slowing down traffic is the last bit of work on State Road 150 between the U.S. 64/State Road 522 intersection in El Prado and the Taos Ski Valley canyon.

In the last two weeks, the state transportation department put down a protective surface called "chip seal" on State Road 150.

Chip seal is applied to existing roadways using a layer of liquid asphalt and small, crushed gravel.

Rosanne Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the department, told The Taos News via email that chip seal extends the life of existing pavement, provides an anti-glare surface during wet conditions, protects the road during winter snowplowing and is roughly 15 to 20 percent of the cost of pavement overlays.

The only work left on State Road 150 is repainting the stripes. San Bar Construction, out of Albuquerque, is the contractor for that work, which is expected to happen this week. The entire project cost the state approximately $235,000, according to Rodriquez.

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