More than $3 billion in funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act awaited New Mexico counties, said Eddy County’s Public and Government Affairs Director.
“It’s uncertain how that money will be divided out from the State to the local communities,” said Jerry Fanning during the Nov. 16 Eddy County Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Signed by President Joe Biden Nov. 15 the $1.2 trillion spending package was designed to rebuild roads and bridges and upgrade various basic services across the United States, read the White House website.
“Hopefully we will see something positive from that across the board here,” Fanning said.
According to the White House website, New Mexico received $2.5 billion for federal highway programs and $225 million for bridge replacements and repairs.
“In New Mexico there are 207 bridges and over 3,822 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 7.7 percent in New Mexico, and on average, each driver pays $767 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair,” the website cited.
New Mexico was eligible to compete for $12.5 billion from the Bridge Investment Program and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill was dedicated for major projects, Fanning said.
“It’s a great deal for $1.2 trillion,” said District 1 County Commissioner Ernie Carlson. “Infrastructure bills stimulate the economy.”
The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) did not have a solidified plan for the federal money, said Marisa Maez, NMDOT spokesperson.
“We are assessing the greatest needs and determining how best to spend the funds,” she said.
District 1 U.S. House Rep. Melanie Stansbury said the measure was welcomed for New Mexico’s rural areas, including Eddy County.
“In New Mexico, we don’t just say ‘drive safe’ to be polite—we say it because we worry about our loved ones out on the road,” she said in a prepared statement.
“This is especially true in our rural communities where many of our roads are in desperate need of attention, and why I am proud that the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act invests billions of dollars in long-overdue funds to create jobs and repair our highways, roads, and bridges,” Stansbury said.
Stansbury and District 3 U.S. House Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez joined fellow Democrats July 1 in approving the measure in July 221 to 201.
District 2 U.S. House Rep. Yvette Harrel (R-NM) voted against it.
New Mexico’s two Democratic U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan was 69-30 in August to pass the bill with an amendment.
The amended bill went back to the House for another vote and passed 228 to 206 on Nov. 5.
“I commend Gov. (Michelle) Lujan Grisham for her leadership to administer this funding, and I look forward to working with the Governor and the New Mexico delegation to get these funds out the door and into our communities,” Stansbury said.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.