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Study team discusses US 380 project

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An analysis of crashes along the project study area shows a high number near Roswell. (Submitted Graphic)

Transportation officials are studying how to improve a mostly rural two-lane highway that runs from the eastern edge of the Roswell city limits through Caprock and Tatum and to the New Mexico-Texas border.

A study team for the U.S. 380 A/B Corridor Project is headed by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, which would fund any future redesign and reconstruction project. Also part of the team are engineers with the District 2 office of the New Mexico Department of Transportation and several consulting firms.

Still in its initial phase, the study is part of an effort to ensure the safety of the 84-mile portion of the highway, which runs through Chaves and Lea counties, said Project Development Engineer Arthur J. Romero of the New Mexico Transportation Department.

“The district has noticed increasing volumes of traffic on U.S. 380 all the way to Texas, so we decided to study to see what is going on,” he said.

While traffic to and from the Permian Basin oilfield is thought to be part of the reason, Romero said, farm traffic also probably makes up a significant portion of vehicles.

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He said the current phase of the study determines existing conditions. The next part of the same phase will evaluate some alternatives, which could include keeping the segment of the highway as a two-lane, making it four-lane or alternating between two-lane and four-lane.

As part of the study, the team is asking people what concerns or issues they have with the project area of U.S. 380. An online meeting Wednesday evening had about 32 participants, and Romero encourages people to continue to make comments through the consultant, Bohannan Huston at 505-798-7857 or us380@bhinc.com.

“If they have any comments, questions or suggestions, we want them to reach out to us,” Romero said.

Part of the Wednesday presentation included some preliminary findings.

For example, an analysis of crash data over four years indicates that one of the areas of most concern is the portion starting in Roswell, from milepost 158 near White Mill Road to milepost 160.

That area saw 111.9 crashes per 1 million miles traveled from 2015 to 2018, according to a chart posted on a project website. That compares to 52.2 crashes per 1 million miles traveled for the entire 84-mile stretch of the project area.

Romero said there are no road deficiencies in that “hot spot,” but wildlife crossings and the increase in traffic near the city limits likely contribute to the accidents.

Other known concerns for the project area include lack of sufficient visibility at curves, turnout areas or passing areas. The study team also has indicated that traffic signage at the Waldrop Rest Area in Chaves County could be improved.

Some information from the Wednesday meeting can be viewed at https://bhi.mysocialpinpoint.com/us-380-corridor-study.

Romero said he is not sure at this time when the first two parts of phase A will be completed, and he noted that District 2 has other highway projects that are priorities, as well, including U.S. 285. He also said that estimates on the future cost of reconstruction cannot be determined until alternatives are identified.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.