What's with the pink flags?

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By Arin McKenna

 People have been wondering about the hot pink flags that have sprung up like mushrooms along N.M. 502. 


The flags represent the first steps in the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s redesign of the roadway between the Crossroads Bible Church and Central Avenue. Crews are marking key features such as points to survey, utility lines and irrigation heads that will have to be moved when the road is widened. That information is being incorporated into designs for the new layout.

Public Works Director Philo Shelton, the county’s contact for the project, reports one significant change from the preliminary plan NMDOT approved in April 2013. The 4th Street intersection will be incorporated into the roundabout at the Central Avenue and N.M. 502 intersection, providing better access for businesses and neighborhoods. 

“I do think it (the roundabout) is going to be a very important gateway feature into downtown, and it’s going to help say, ‘now you’re in Los Alamos,’” Shelton said.

NMDOT is currently in discussions with Los Alamos Public Schools to acquire necessary right-of-way for the project. The agency plans to schedule a design kick-off public meeting in the near future. As soon as NMDOT’s project webpage is published, the county will provide a link to the site.

Construction on that segment of roadway is scheduled to begin next year.

The construction underway at the DP Road intersection is also part of the N.M. 502 project. The Los Alamos County Streets Division is realigning the intersection to bring DP Road in at a 90-degree angle to N.M. 502. 

Two lanes of that intersection should be completed by next week. To minimize disruptions, paving of the new intersection may be scheduled for a weekend, depending upon the availability of asphalt from local suppliers. 

After paving, traffic flow will be shifted to the new intersection and existing raised directional islands will be demolished and paved. Traffic on N.M. 502 will be reduced to two lanes during the demolition to provide adequate workspace for construction crews. Motorists should expect congestion in the N.M. 502/DP Road area during peak traffic times.

A third lane planned for intersection will be incorporated into the NMDOT design, in order to coordinate traffic flow with the new roundabout. 

Smith’s/Kroger is overseeing construction from DP Road to Knecht Street, which should be underway soon. That segment of the project includes a redesign to provide access to the Trinity Site and the new Smith’s Marketplace.

Smith’s is currently obtaining permits for construction of a new entrance to the Mari Mac Shopping Center. The two N.M. 502 entrances will be replaced by a single entrance in the center of the Mari Mac property, aligned with the Trinity Site entrance at a signalized intersection. 

Smith’s goal is to complete that stage within a five-week window. 

“That is pretty quick,” Shelton said. “It may seem like forever for some of the businesses, but there’s a lot of paving to be built and curb lines constructed.”

Smith’s also hopes to complete work on Trinity Drive before the Smith’s Marketplace opens mid-July.

The county has bid out for a project to replace storm culverts in that stretch of road. The new system will not only handle storm water from the Trinity Site, it resolve drainage issues at the Mari Mac center. 

Whether that work can be completed now, independent of the NMDOT project, hinges on what the bids come in at. 

“It’s a decision point we’re still grappling with, because the budget’s very close, very tight. I can’t really say what the budget is right now because it’s out to bid,” Shelton said.

The county hopes to complete the storm sewer project now to coordinate with Smith’s work on the roadway. 

The cost of installing of the culverts will apply toward the county’s $1.25 million match for the N.M. 502 project. The majority of funding for the project ($3.8 million) is through the NMDOT District 5 State Transportation Improvement Program.