SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Department of Transportation is seriously considering closing nearly half of the state’s highway rest stops, according to a published report by The New Mexico Independent, an independent news netework.
The network said the state’s DOT has targeted 14 of the state’s 32 rest stops — 13 full-time and one seasonal — for possible closure with the decision coming soon, according to agency spokesman Mark Slimp.
Ten of the targeted rest stops are along stretches of Interstates 10, 25 and 40 while the remaining four are on U.S. highways 64, 70 and 180, according to a list provided by the transportation agency.
“This is being carefully thought out,” Slimp told the Independent, adsding that two of the factors being weighed by agency staff are the volume of use at each targeted rest stop and how close each is to commercial facilities.
Eight of the targeted rest stops are at four sites, meaning they sit on opposite sides of an Interstate and count as two rest stops despite being right across from one another, Slimp said.
“None of this cast is stone, but a good portion probably will be shut down,” Slimp added.
The move would save the state $1.6 million annually.
Closing rest areas, is only the latest potential cost-savings measure the state’s transportation agency has considered as it struggles with anemic revenues that can’t keep up with expenses, the Independent said.
The state’s transportation agency is funded through two major sources, and one of them — the state road fund — has taken a severe financial hit of late. The state road fund is fed by state taxes on gasoline and special fuels – diesel — and a state 3 percent tax charged when a vehicle is purchased.
As a result, the state transportation agency has reduced its budget this year by tens of millions of dollars after revenues have come lower than expected in recent years.
The current estimate is that state road fund revenues from those sources have come $50 million to $60 million lower than expected, leaving a sizable budget hole for the transportation agency, Slimp said. The estimated savings from closing all 14 rest stops would be $1.6 million, Slimp added.
Despite the transportation agency’s troubles New Mexico lawmakers rejected measures during this year’s legislative session that could have added much-needed dollars to the state road fund. One defeated bill would have increased the state tax on purchased vehicles from 3 percent to 4 percent.
The rest areas targeted for possible closing include Butterfield Trail, U.S. 180; Fort Seldon, I-25, north and south; Scenic View on I-10; Blackwater Draw on U.S. 70; Pajarito/Newkirk on I-40, east and west; Thaxton on I-25, north and south; Sierra Grande U.S. 64; Rattelsnake on I-40, east and west; Acomita on I-40, and Rio Grande Gorge on U.S. 64 (only open in the spring, summer and fall.)
The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at email@example.com.