ROSWELL AND CARLSBAD — At one end of Pauline and Joe Ponce’s spacious dining room in Roswell lies a cabinet crowded with photographs and mementos of their son, Michael. An old wrestling match program rests amid snapshots of Michael with his daughter, his parents, his wife. Pauline lingers beside an image of Michael holding his then one-and-a-half-year-old son, captured in December 2017. “That was taken only two months before Michael died,” she said. On the morning of Feb.
It’s almost impossible to find a smooth ride in New Mexico. Most of the state’s major roads and highways are in poor or mediocre condition, and those potholes out there mean hundreds of dollars in additional fuel, repairs and other costs for the average driver, according to an annual survey published Wednesday. This may not be news for New Mexicans bouncing around on the state’s roads. But this year, the data come as lawmakers consider hundreds of millions of additional dollars in the budget for road repairs and debate raising the long-stagnant gas tax to pay for future maintenance. The report by The Road Information Program, or TRIP, says New Mexicans are already paying for the condition of the state’s highways.
It can be scary to drive at night in rural New Mexico. There aren’t lights to see who might be on the side of the road, ready to race or saunter across. While we’re zooming along a ribbon of highway at 75 or 80 miles per hour—sometimes in a line of cars, sometimes all alone out on the highway—often, there are owls hunting, foxes looking for mice in the grassy median, coyotes bringing food home to the den, or elk on their way to water or higher ground. Even during the day, pronghorn or deer might dart across the road. When a car collides with an animal, it’s bad news for everyone.
Autonomous vehicles are coming. Soon—and New Mexico needs to be ready. That was the message from a recent summit on autonomous, or driverless, vehicles organized by the state Department of Transportation. Local officials, technology experts and even industry representatives all agreed legislators need to understand the technology before changing laws or other policies. Earlier this year, Sen. James White, R-Albuquerque, introduced a memorial asking NMDOT to organize the summit and get New Mexico ready for autonomous vehicles.
A quarter of New Mexico’s roads are in bad condition according to a new report from a Washington D.C. nonprofit. And ripped up pavement and bumpy roads aren’t just an inconvenience, they’re also costly to car owners in the state. On average, bad roads, traffic congestion and poor traffic safety conditions cost Albuquerque drivers more than $1,800 each year, according to the report by the transportation policy research group TRIP. Released last week, TRIP’s “New Mexico Transportation By the Numbers” report is based on publicly available data from sources like the American Automobile Association, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration. Albuquerque’s roads are the worst for any city in the state, according to the report, with 34 percent of them in poor condition.