January 14, 2010

U.S. 491 to Receive Nearly $1 Million for Upgrade

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall today announced that the Navajo Nation will benefit from a $950,000 grant to help upgrade U.S. 491 from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The federal grant funding will be used to acquire right of way and perform archeological studies to upgrade the highway from two lanes to four.

"This grant will help advance the important work -- already underway -- of expanding U.S. 491. Specifically, it will be used to add two new lanes to the route from Tohatchi and Shiprock -- a move that I believe will have a positive impact on the economy of the region," Bingaman said.

"As the primary north-south route in the Four Corners region, U.S. 491 is important to the economic vitality of the surrounding communities. The eventual expansion to four lanes will improve both access and, most importantly, safety for the many who travel it on a regular basis," said Udall, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

U.S. 491 has a documented history of traffic accidents along this stretch that highlight the safety problems along the highway. Without the expansion, as traffic volume continues to grow the problem would likely get worse.

U.S. 491 is the primary north-south highway in northwest New Mexico. 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 allocated to different portions of this highway: $15 million for roadway rehabilitation on U.S. Highway 491 from Tohatchi to Shiprock and $21.8 million in San Juan County for the 4-lane upgrade of U.S. 491 from Newcomb to Little Water.