February 17, 2010

Navajo D.O.T. Receives $31 Million

Funding to Improve and Expand U.S. 491

WASHINGTON - On the one year anniversary of the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Representative Ben Ray Luján today announced that the Navajo Department of Transportation will receive $31 million from the Recovery Act to widen and improve U.S. 491 between Shiprock and Gallup.

This funding, which is provided under the Department of Transportation's Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recover (TIGER) grant program, will be used to widen the roadway from two to four lanes with a median separating traffic in both directions. Other safety improvements include adding turn lanes as well as improving road signs and markings for intersections.

"This investment will improve a dangerous stretch of road, making it safer for travelers. But in this difficult economic time, this grant will also put people to work at good-paying jobs," Bingaman said.

"This roadway is important to the economic vitality of McKinley and San Juan counties. The expansion and improvements to this critical road in the Navajo Nation will improve access and most importantly the safety of those who travel it on a regular basis," said Udall, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"I'm encouraged that we are seeing another investment in New Mexico that will help put people to work. This funding is particularly important since it addresses a road much in need of improvements and because it serves the people of Navajo Nation who too often are faced with inadequate infrastructure," Luján said.

U.S. 491 is one of the most dangerous routes in New Mexico with traffic crash rates far higher than statewide averages. Without the expansion, as traffic volume continues to grow the problem would likely get worse.

The roadway serves as the primary north-south highway connecting the local Navajo Nation to other parts of New Mexico, Colorado and the Four Corners area. It serves as a vital link in the state's transportation system for the commercial, recreational, tourism, commuter and local traffic traveling to and from the Four Corners quadrant.

More than $35 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding has already been allocated to different portions of U.S. Highway 491 - $15 million for roadway rehabilitation from Tohatchi to Shiprock and $21.8 million in San Juan County for the 4-lane upgrade from Newcomb to Little Water. The U.S. Department of Transportation also provided $950,000 to acquire right of way and perform archeological studies to upgrade the highway from two lanes to four.