Feds expected to pay for $20 million in NM road repairs

By Rob Nikolewski on October 25, 2013
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NEW MEXICO ROAD DAMAGE: A New Mexico Department of Transportation department employee stands in front of damage on Route 159 near the town of Mogollon. NMDOT photo.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE — The federal government is expected to pick up tab to repair road damage sustained during last month’s record rainfall.

The head of the told he expects the federal government to pay the $20-million repair bill.

“At this time we anticipate that all of the requested funds will be reimbursed to the state,” said in an email.

The already has released $2 million in emergency relief funds in the aftermath of the flooding. NMDOT has sent the feds a revised request for an additional $17.8 million.

Earlier this month, some state lawmakers questioned the price tag because they heard of but NMDOT officials confirmed the $20 million figure, saying it has been verified by the federal agency.

While getting the feds to pay for the repairs sounds like good news, a research associate at the , a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., offers a note of caution.

“The money isn’t free,” said Friday. “It’s coming from somewhere. Some motorists and taxpayers somewhere are paying for that.”

Goff said a more fiscally efficient way to pay for highway repairs would have individual states shoulder a larger burden.

“If the state isn’t picking up the tab, there is often zero incentive for states to spend those dollars wisely,” Goff said. “For example, when it comes to selecting bids for road construction, you want sure the contracts are going to the lowest or best bidder. There’s less incentive for that if the federal government is paying the bill … It’s like the millions and billions spent in stimulus money.”

The fall monsoon season wreaked havoc on New Mexico’s roads, in particular in rural communities. The town of Mogollon in Catron County in the western part of the state saw a two-mile stretch washed out that is estimated to eat up $13 million of the repair costs.

Contact Rob Nikolewski at and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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