LOS LUNAS — The village of Los Lunas is working on acquiring property in order to make way for the upcoming Interstate 25 east-west corridor project.

The corridor project is expected to run along Morris Road from the interstate to N.M. 47. It will include four miles of four-lane highway stretching across the river to N.M. 47, four signalized intersections and a new river crossing with the goal of alleviating traffic congestion on N.M. 6.

During its Nov. 17 meeting, the council unanimously voted to delegate authority to the village administrator, Greg Martin, to assist the village in acquiring real property for the project.

A rendering from the Los Lunas Corridor Study (MRCOG) showing the anticipated new river bridge crossing, looking west.

Monica Rodriguez, a project manager with Tierra West, the village’s right-of-way consultant for the project, is assisting the village in buying 56 different parcels of land from the interstate to N.M. 47. Thirty of the 56 properties have already been appraised.

“Our goal is to have all of the appraisals complete by the end of this year,” Rodriguez said. “Those appraisals will then be reviewed and approved by the New Mexico Department of Transportation, which is an ongoing process we are still actively involved in right now.”

Tierra West has already begun scheduling offer presentations with the 28 different property owners the acquisition would affect. She said in some cases, a single owner will own several parcels, or oversee a company which owns one or multiple parcels.

Through the last budget approval, the village councilors approved about $4 million to acquire property, an amount Los Lunas Public Works Director Michael Jaramillo said fits with their estimate of how much the land acquisition will cost.

“There is a process through the appraisal and through the review to ensure that (the offers) are fair market prices,” Jaramillo told the council.

Rodriguez said while they are dealing with a rather large swath of land, relocations are “pretty minimal,” with two personal property relocations, two tenant occupant relocations, a business landlord relocation and a business farm relocation.

“I think they are pretty minimal given the amount of real estate we are covering,” she said. “A relocation manager is going to start meeting with businesses on Nov. 28 and 29.”

There are nine different offer presentations scheduled on Tuesday, Dec. 6, with the rest expected to be scheduled in the near future, Rodriguez said.

Funding history of the I-25 east-west corridor project

A second interchange to serve the village of Los Lunas has been a talking point for more than two decades, but it only began to seem like a reality for the past few years.

In January 2022, the village received its most recent bout of funding for the project — $25 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation, which U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich helped to secure.

Another $25 million grant from the Department of Transportation was awarded to the village in the summer of last year.

Martin estimates the entirety of the project fall between $115 million and $120 million, with the interchange alone expected to cost about $25 million.

In addition to U.S. DOT, several other government entities at all levels have put funding into the project. The New Mexico Legislature appropriated $10 million in 2019 and an additional $15.2 million in 2021. The New Mexico Department of Transportation has also put aside $45 million out of its discretionary fund for the project.

Valencia County also contributed $2 million of general obligation bond funding, as well as an additional $2.5 million from the village of Los Lunas.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.