Due to increasing traffic between Alamogordo, MN and El Paso, TX, Highway 54 was widened from two to four lanes. A Relief Route was also built to divert pass through traffic thus improving safety and decreasing congestion on the business route White Sand boulevard.
Project Type:Widening Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:8,221 Length (mi):70.00
Economic Distress:1.49 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):9 Population Growth Rate (%):280.00
Employment Growth Rate (%):96.00 Market Size:61,526 Airport Travel Distance:89 Topography:20
Region:Southwest State:New Mexico County:Otero
City:Alamogordo Urban/Class Level:Rural Local Area:Alamogordo
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:32.903906 / -105.970193
Initial Study Date:1997 Post Constr. Study Date:2007
Constr. Start Date:1998 Constr. End Date:2001
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 2001 Planned Cost (YOE $):59,000,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):59,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):77,608,487
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||4.40||1.54||5.94|
|Output (in $M's)||9.42||3.29||12.71|
US 54 enters New Mexico from the outskirts of El Paso, Texas and serves as a military highway to connect Fort Bliss in El Paso to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Because U.S. 54 was first built as a two lane highway, increased traffic volumes between El Paso, TX and Alamogordo, NM raised concerns about safety and access. The highway originally bisected the town of Alamogordo, NM causing severe congestion along the downtown section of White Sands Boulevard where a large number of businesses had located. To address pedestrian safety and re-direct pass-through traffic, a relief route bypass was constructed to the West side of town, which has attracted a number of businesses to its location. Overall, the relief route bypass is credited with bringing 90 jobs to the city of Alamogordo, NM.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
U.S. Route 54 is an east-west United States highway that runs northeast-southwest for 1,197 miles (1,926 km) from western Illinois to El Paso, Texas. The focus of this case study is on the section from the New Mexico state line outside of El Paso, TX to Alamogordo, NM which is the county seat and economic center of Otero County. U.S. 54 and U.S. 70 become one north through Alamogordo until Tularosa, where U.S. 70 diverts North East towards Roswell and U.S. 54 continues north to Carrizozo and on to intersect Interstate 40 in Santa Rosa. U.S. 70 also continues southwest of Alamogordo, where it intersects I-25 at Las Cruces U.S. 82 runs east from Alamogordo through the Lincoln Mountain range to the city of Artesia, NM.
Alamogordo is bordered on the east by the Lincoln National Forrest and to the west by the San Andreas National Wildlife Refuges, both of which attract outdoor recreation enthusiasts from surrounding area. White Sands National Monument is located to the West of Alamogordo and encompasses 275 square miles of brilliant white sand dunes. It is the world's largest gypsum dune field.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Alamogordo was originally developed as a rail junction for nearby mountain lumber in 1898 by the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad. In 2013 its population was 31,368 residents and the unemployment rate 6.3% in August, 2014. The city encompasses 19.38 square miles and is at an elevation of 4,336 feet. The population density is 1,628 people per square mile.
The nearby Holloman Air Force Base (AFB) was constructed in 1942 and is currently the largest employer in the town. According to some estimates it accounts for half of the city's economy. During the 1950-60s, the base was an unofficial center for research on pilot safety and the developing United States' space program. It currently hosts the 49th Wing, which provides combat-ready airmen, and trains MQ-1 Predator pilots, MQ-9 Reaper pilots, sensor operators, and F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots. Holloman AFB supports about 21,000 Active Duty service persons, National Guardsmen, Reservists, retirees, Department of Defense civilians, and their family members.
Located to the West of the Holloman AFB is the White Sands Missile Range, a United States Army rocket range of almost 3,200 square miles known for the Trinity test, the first explosion of the atomic bomb in the United States. This military testing facility is also a major employer of Alamogordo residents.
The city is home to New Mexico State University- Alamogordo, a two-year community college established in 1958, which currently has approximately 1,800 students. In addition to the nearby military installations and military retirees, the economy is primarily driven by the service, retail, and tourism sectors. Visitor attractions include the White Sands National Monument, New Mexico Museum of Space History, nearby Lincoln National Forest, and public lands for hunting large game. North of Tularosa is the White Sands Speedway, a popular stock car racetrack.
Because U.S. 54 was first built as a two lane highway, increased traffic volumes between El Paso, TX and Alamogordo, NM raised concerns about safety and access. The widening of U.S. 54 from the Texas-New Mexico state line North to Alamogordo started in 1998, was completed in 2001 at a cost of $36M (2001$'s). The citizens of Alamogordo believed the widening to be such an important project that when a bonding issue appeared to jeopardize the project, the Alamogordo City Commission send a draft letter to the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, Governor, Lt. Governor, and US Secretary of Transportation Bill Richardson. In the letter they emphasized that the road's "widening (NM 54) will help promote growth and economic activity to an area crying out for development. Its widening will also make Highway 54 far less dangerous to travel."
U.S. 54 originally bisected the town of Alamogordo, NM causing severe congestion along the downtown section of White Sands Blvd, where a large number of businesses had located. To address pedestrian safety and re-direct pass-through traffic, a relief route bypass was constructed to the West side of town. The relief route has attracted a number of businesses to its location. Named the "Charlie Lee Memorial Relief Route", it comprises five miles of four-lane divided highway from the US 54/70 Interchange to the US 54/70/82 interchange. Construction lasted from 1999 to 2001 and cost an estimated $23M (2001$'s). Don Carroll, the Mayor of Alamogordo during the construction of the project, stated "the completion of the Relief route will relieve traffic on White Sands Boulevard and create improved access to the businesses located there."
4.1 Transportation Impacts
According to interviewed sources, the widening of U.S. 54 improved safety and access between Alamogordo and El Paso. The widening also enable traffic to travel at higher speeds thus increasing the geographic area of accessible destinations for the same period of travel. The relief route bypass also improved pedestrian safety, decreased congestion, and increased customer access to businesses along White Sands Blvd by rerouting pass through cars and freight trucks. The average Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) along this segment of U.S. 54 was 1,807 vehicles in 2009. AADT before construction (1997) was not able to be identified.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
Because a large number of residents are employed by the nearby Holloman AFB and White Sands Missile Range, economic growth within Alamogordo fluctuates according to the level of military employment. According to sources at the local chamber of commerce, the widening enabled existing businesses to expand to accommodate the growth in military employment. However, interviewees were not able to estimate how much of this growth is attributable to the roadway project.
The construction of the "Charlie Lee Memorial Relief Route" did open up additional land for development and the bypass is credited with helping to attract two new businesses. A branch office of PreCheck Inc., a company that performs background checks of health-care workers, opened in 2006. PreCheck was looking for a location away from regions with hurricane activity that could be used as back-up for to their Houston, Texas based operations. Of the 150 employees currently employed at the branch office, an estimated 75 employees (50%) are attributed to creation of the bypass, with other incentives responsible for the remaining 50% of the jobs. The second business attracted to the relief route was a restaurant that employs an estimated 15 individuals. According to local sources the relief route was the primary reason it came to its current location and therefore all 15 jobs are considered net new to the city due to the project.
In Alamogordo, PreCheck found a highly skilled workforce, lower taxes, pro-business environment, and attractive local and state incentives. The company received $2.4 million in high-wage job creation tax credits, $1.5 million in job-training subsidies, $1.5 million in capital outlay money for roads and infrastructure, a $625,000 allocation from City of Alamogordo for upgrading sewer lines, and 20.8 acres of land from Heritage Group, a developer.
Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce
Alamogordo Town Historian
Alamogordo Transportation Committee
New Mexico Department of Transportation
Otero County Economic Development Council
S.P.I.R.I.T. of U.S. 54 (Non-Profit)
Case Study Developed by EDR Group International