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We need to move forward to future

June 14, 2017 • Dear Editor

While I found the article: “Funds for Route 66 towns may be at risk” by Russell Contreras, AP, to be of special interest, it reminded me of a big opportunity that I believe this region of New Mexico is losing out on.
Made famous by song, television and tourists, the old U.S. 66 — the “Mother Road” — has seen its day. It is officially gone; it was replaced by Interstate 40, a high-speed thruway that enables visitors to zoom through Albuquerque and the rest of northern New Mexico. Except for a few historic segments trying to stay afloat with government subsidy, U.S. 66 no longer exists. It was decommissioned in 1985 by the federal government.
But what about the unique New Mexican highway right here among us? It’s U.S. 70, a modern, divided four-lane route that functions like an interstate but without a freeway’s endless frenzy. The “Big Seven-Oh” comes through the city of Roswell — a small city with its showcase of world class institutions — and then continues to Ruidoso, Mescalero and beyond.
Fortunately for all, there is virtually no chance that U.S. 70 will ever be replaced with a thruway interstate. Travelers have the luxury of stopping at any point along this unlimited access highway to experience tourist-based enterprises, public and private, situated at choice locations between Clovis on the Texas border and Las Cruces to the southwest — and visitors can stay as long as they wish in this uncrowded, exciting stretch of New Mexico.
Our New Mexico segment of U.S. 70 provides travelers with four safe, uncrowded lanes of well-maintained highway that links Amarillo and I-40 to the north with Interstates 10 and 25 in Las Cruces to the southwest. It is, in fact, a shortcut through unparalleled desert and alpine scenery with a grand assortment of recreational and educational opportunities free of the dash and hurry of an interstate.
Although this stretch of highway is well-known to gamers and gamblers on their way to Ruidoso and the Inn of the Mountain Gods, this route needs to be advertised nationally to educate all interstate travelers, whether traveling east or west, that U.S. 70 is alive and well, and is here for them.
Older than U.S. 66, U.S. 70 offers more visitor opportunities than any similar stretch of highway anywhere in New Mexico. From Clovis on the Texas border to Las Cruces — a 300-mile drive through a mix of Chihuahuan desert, the verdant Hondo Valley and cool, forested mountain passes — visitors wind their way through a variety of exciting landscapes studded with Mule Deer, Elk, Pronghorn (they are not antelope), cattle and an occasional cowboy on a horse or an ATV.
From the High Plains, an ocean of grassland and sky, one crosses the Rio Pecos, made famous by tales of Pecos Bill, and offers many out-of-staters their first glimpse of a mountain in the West. On a clear day, the Capitans, a monumental up-thrust mountain ridge, beckons from the western horizon and is often visible from as far away as the Texas border.
What needs to be done? The groundwork is already laid; there is no shortage of a fine diversity of restaurants and lodging along the U.S. 70 corridor. In fact, the public, merchants, towns and institutions should compete vigorously and nationally with the “Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program” as an alternative “futures” player in directing visitors to this special part of the world.
Once exposed to the broad assortment of remarkable opportunities available here, tourists should be encouraged to make this highway, the “Big Seven-Oh” their vacation destination. We can assist them as they spend a few days exploring this multicultural land of hospitality and discovery.
Plainly put, we need to move forward, move toward a brighter future and not anchor ourselves to the past.
Ray Pawley
Hondo

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