Taos Pueblo finishes work on Veterans Highway

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The complete reconstruction of Taos Pueblo's Veterans Highway is nearly finished after two years of steady work.

The project saw a total overhaul of 2 miles of Veterans Highway, which was financed through a "highly competitive" federal grant that's meant to push funds to areas in need of rebuilding infrastructure, according to Vernon Lujan, transportation planner and head of the Municipal Services Division.

According to Lujan, the original highway was built around 1964 and subsequently resurfaced in the 1980s, but otherwise has not had major repairs.

Over the course of the two-year project, the road was "completely reconstructed," Lujan said. First, the road was milled down between 7 and 10 inches and then built back up with base course and new asphalt. Driveways were also repaved, while the intersection of Goat Springs Road, Star Road and Hail Creek Road were improved for better visibility and line of sight for motorists.

Work began July 2016. During the first season, crews rebuilt the road from the tribal boundary near Allsup's Convenience Store on Paseo del Pueblo Norte to the Hail Creek Road intersection. Crews worked on the section of highway between Hail Creek Road and the entrance of Taos Pueblo during the second year.

The highway overhaul also included improving major detour routes with donated asphalt, including Spider Rock Road and Little Deer Horn Road, as well as putting up more signs to direct tourists traveling to and from Taos Pueblo. A bridge was also brought up to standards, Lujan said.

Furthermore, a horse and pedestrian path was added along the highway.

The work was funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation. Taos Pueblo was awarded nearly $3.3 million in 2013 through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, according to the federal agency's website.

"Since the TIGER grant program was first created, $5.1 billion has been awarded for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure over eight rounds. ... TIGER grants have historically achieved, on average, co-investment of 3.6 dollars (including other federal, state, local, private and philanthropic funds) for every TIGER dollar invested," according to the program's website.

One of the reasons Taos Pueblo received the grant was because of its status as a World Heritage site and the associated tourism that has come with it since 1992, Lujan said.

Lujan said that it was "quite a feat to jump through all the hurdles and hoops" associated with the federal grant. However, given that few tribes have received the grant - this is the only time Taos Pueblo has - the Pueblo has become a model for successfully applying for this type of funding, he said.

In 2015, Laguna Pueblo received $1 million for a pedestrian and bike route.

A 2017 federal appropriations bill allocated another $500 million for the TIGER program through 2020.

"We want to thank Taos Pueblo residents and the community for their patience" throughout the construction, Lujan said.

The last bits of work are being completed this month and a ribbon-cutting and dedication event is being planned for sometime in November.

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