Peralta residents, officials beginning to warm up to N.M. 47 project

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The tide seems to have turned as Peralta officials and most residents seem to want to move forward with a road project that will improve N.M. 47.

Several weeks ago, property owners met with the New Mexico Department of Transportation in a meeting that mapped out six intersections of raised medians on the 1.8-mile stretch of roadway.

The medians range in width from four feet and 16 feet.

Most residents and business owners are content with current plans to improve the roadway as long as the medians don't impact their ability to access their properties.

Seventy percent of the property owners who showed up to an April meeting were against raised medians as part of the project, while 24 percent were in favor of the medians. The remainder were undecided.

"There used to be quite a bit," said Kevin Eades, a project manager with Molzen-Corbin and Associates, about those who were against the raised medians. "Now, there aren't that many."

Eades said the meeting was meant to help property owners understand and resolve any issues that may come up in the process. Eades said there would be a public hearing later this month.

The $10 million project, funded by the state, would widen the highway at three places — Valencia Road to Crawford, Crawford to Peralta and Acequia to South Bosque Loop.

Residents should expect to see construction in the next 12 to 18 months.

"I'm very glad to see a big crowd," Peralta Mayor Bryan Olguin said. "This is huge for the town of Peralta and everyone who uses N.M. 47."

Olguin said Peralta officials have compromised with the state Department of Transportation in order to go forward with the project.

More than 12 years ago, the town lost state funding over squabbles between residents and officials. Residents disagreed with a proposal where the state wanted to use large sections of Peralta's land for ponding areas.

The mayor said there are still "a couple of issues" with driveways of property owners who could be affected by the road improvements. He said he would like to see one of the medians, at Don Jacobo, cut down.

"This (project) is something we have been trying to do for a long time," Olguin said.

Damian Gutierrez is a property owner who has frequently voiced his concerns over the raised medians. He said he owns three properties near Don Jacobo and N.M. 47.

The current proposal, he said, leaves him with the ability to get to his home, but restricts access to his other two properties. He said he is thinking about starting up a petition against the proposal.

"Now, I can go to my house, but as far as the (other properties,) I don't know," Gutierrez said. "I'll have to talk to them."

Another resident, Earl Whittemore, said the improvements would likely cause flooding if torrential rains sweep through the area. He owns the old Peralta schoolhouse on McGee Lane. He said taxpayers should have a voice in the outcome of the project.

"I am tired of being spoken to like a dumb kid who doesn't eat his Brussel sprouts," Whittemore said at a recent council meeting.

John Craig of Belen owns three Peralta properties, including Craig Tire. He said no medians will be near his business.

"I am very happy about that fact," Craig said. "Where they had it set up before, it was dangerous for both customers and employees."

Diarmuid Dunne has lived in Peralta for three years and said he was in favor of improvements that help with safety.

"The state is making an effort to accommodate everyone's concerns," Dunne said.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.