A crucial discussion on whether Village government should take ownership and management of Corrales Road is expected April 20. The old farm-to-market road became what is now State Highway 448 largely by prescriptive easement and was paved in 1946. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXVI No.3 April 8, 2017 “After 71 Years, Time to Re-Build Corrales Road.”)
Officials from the N.M. Department of Transportation (NMDOT) are scheduled to make a presentation to the mayor and Village Council at their April 20 session. Village Administrator Ron Curry reported at the council’s March 23 meeting that the perennial topic of Corrales taking over Corrales Road came up at a regular meeting with NMDOT in mid-March. “So now we have asked the State of New Mexico to make a presentation to the council on April 20. “We recognize that this is a high-profile discussion item and that people have a lot of opinions about it —some are old and some are new— and we expect all of those to come out.
“NMDOT has kind of reached a point where they have reached a window in which they need to plan for it to take place,” Curry continued. He emphasized the importance of giving Corrales officials, and especially Corrales businesses, ample advance notice about any changes that might require closing Corrales Road. As part of discussions about the future status of Highway 448 in recent years, it has been understood that NMDOT would have to re-pave, if not substantially rebuild, Corrales Road before the Village would agree to take over responsibility for it. Such a project would have to be incorporated into a future NMDOT budget, which seems to have been Curry’s basis for saying the department has a current window for making a decision.
“If this process begins to move forward, in December of this year, or December of next year, we want to know the exact time line for the disruption, because we want to be as conscious of our businesses along Corrales Road which are already struggling due to COVID.” The Village Administrator said another topic NMDOT “has alluded to is that they need to encumber the money. If they’re got x-dollars to do this —and they’ll have to color that in for us at the meeting— we want to know what those dollars are and the timelines associated with using it.”
Over more than a decade, NMDOT has urged the Village to take responsibility for Corrales Road on the grounds that it doesn’t really fit within the state highway system any longer. Each time the matter has come up, Village officials have resisted for a variety of reasons. One of those is the high cost of maintaining the road. So in preliminary talks, Village officials have insisted that NMDOT would have to transfer ownership only after the road has been throughly updated and improved. (See Corrales Comment Vol.XXXIX No.17 November 21, 2020 “Finally Time Now To Take Over Corrales Road?”)
Curry said last fall he expected to move ahead on talks with NMDOT on that possibility “sometime within the next 90 days, depending on what their schedule will allow, where they come in and talk about all the details and ramifications involved in us taking over Corrales Road.” As in most previous municipal elections here, candidates were asked to explain their position on the Village taking over Corrales Road. In nearly every case, they expressed reservation about possible maintenance costs and liability.
Elected to the council in March 2020, Zach Burkett said he was open to the prospect of Village government taking over Corrales Road, “but my biggest concern is maintenance on the road.” On the other hand, he noted that Loma Larga and other municipal roads receive funding from the state highway department. Then-candidate Stu Murray, also elected in March, said he thought it would be a bad idea to take ownership of Corrales Road. “It will take millions of dollars just to re-pave it as it is now.”
For years, the prospect was clouded by NMDOT’s uncertainty over what it actually owned along Corrales Road. For decades, highway officials had said the department generally did not claim any right-of-way in Corrales beyond the edge of the pavement. That might have been true for much of the distance, since it was basically a common-use farm-to-market road which at some point the highway department agreed to pave and maintain —without formally acquiring right-of-way.
Finally about ten years ago, NMDOT contracted for a definitive property line survey along the entire length of Corrales Road and concluded that it did, indeed, own varying widths of road shoulder along most of it.