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Committee kills bill to fund Highway 380 reconstruction

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A bill to reconstruct a portion of Highway 380 has hit a dead end.

State Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell, said Saturday a motion passed the House Appropriations and Finance Committee Friday to “permanently table” House Bill 223 (HB 223). The motion passed unanimously.

“A lot of points were made and the common wisdom suggested a local solution must be found in order to correct this untenable situation,” said Anderson, who sits on the committee and co-sponsored the bill.

State Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said this was done because the budget was set and all appropriations bills not included in the budget are tabled.

HB 223 would have appropriated $15 million from 2020 to 2025 to redesign and reconstruct a section of Highway 380 that spans from Hondo to Carrizozo to make it safer for trucks exceeding 65 feet in length.

Trucks exceeding 65 feet in length are currently prohibited from traveling that stretch of the highway due to safety concerns.

The bill was introduced by state Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, and co-sponsored by Reps. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell; Anderson; and Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena.

HB 223 previously passed the House Transportation, Public Works and Capital Improvements Committee 8 to 2 without recommendation.

Ezzell, who along with Nibert and Anderson, spoke to the committee Friday, said she proposed the bill after learning that some truck drivers from local businesses and agriculture producers were cited repeatedly by a Department of Transportation traffic safety officer.

Lynda Sanchez, a historian and retired educator, has been among opponents of the project. She said reconstructing the highway would “gut” the Bonito Valley that the highway runs through.

Sanchez said she and many people feel the project would ruin the Billy the Kid Scenic Byway, which is protected land.

Expanding the highway, she said, would help few at the expense of the thousands of people who visit Lincoln County, a national historic landmark since 1960.

“So when you have these kind of really outstanding issues, why would you want to widen something that brings tourists from all over the world?” Sanchez asked.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.