By TYLER GREEN
Daily Press Staff Writer
Local trucking companies are seeking the support of county officials to improve NM 229, the designated truck route that connects the industrial park north of Artesia to US 82 east of town.
While the drivers who travel down the road for their daily business believe it is in desperate need of repairs, the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) has not listed the road as a priority, with no projects scheduled within the next three years on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
In an effort to make NM 229 a priority in the eyes of the NMDOT, Lance Wilbanks of Wilbanks Trucking has put together a petition asking local trucking companies to join together to support the truck route improvement initiative.
According to Wilbanks, the main concern is the lack of a shoulder on the road and in several places the asphalt has eroded beyond the white line that marks the edge of the roadway.
“In my opinion, that is a poor excuse for a truck route,” said Wilbanks. “In some spots, there is not even a full road, much less a shoulder.”
Wilbanks explained there is a heavy amount of traffic on the truck route carrying wide loads and when a truck meets another truck carrying a wide load, one vehicle must literally stop and get off the road.
“We require our trucks to use the truck route,” said Wilbanks. “But I’ll be honest with you, if you are hauling a wide load; it is not a safe situation. If you pass another truck, even without a load, you are mirror to mirror on that thing.”
Eddy County Commissioner Lewis Derrick agrees the road has become a safety concern as traffic traveling to and from the industrial park has increased over the past several years.
Derrick supports the petition, and said “If we can get signatures, we will try and get the county commissioners to push it.”
Derrick said he believes Eddy County is entitled to its fair share of STIP funds since the oil and gas industry that utilizes the truck route sends a fair amount of money to the north end of the state.
“It’s these companies that help to keep the economy going,” said Derrick. “If we need a road fixed because of the traffic, hopefully some of the money that we send up north will come back to fix it.”
Wilbanks agrees the state has a responsibility to the trucking industry to support a safe working environment. … Subscribe for the rest of the story.