Chapter 8
The ability to move people and goods with relative ease and to improve accessibility is
determined by how a municipality’s transportation network is planned, built, operated
and maintained. Efficient transportation of people and goods becomes part of a
foundation whereby a community can grow, prosper, and attract residents and businesses.
A municipality can cripple its efforts to manage future growth in a coordinated and wellplanned manner without a connected and efficient transportation network and a well
thought-out approach to multi-modal infrastructure and congestion management that is in
concert with development and land use.
This chapter will present an overview of the regional transportation network; identify
past, current and future transportation trends in the region; update the information from
the City of Las Cruces 1993 Comprehensive Plan with 2008 data; and discuss planned and
forecasted multi-modal infrastructure improvements that will efficiently serve a fast
growing area.
The City of Las Cruces transportation system inventory covers a variety of multimodal
system elements including automobile lanes, sidewalks, bike lanes, shoulders, multi-use
trails, bus transit, air transport, and rail transport. By reviewing all available modes of
transportation in Las Cruces and providing consistency with state, regional and county
plans, this inventory complies with the objectives of the federal Safe, Accountable,
Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).
SAFETEA-LU also states that the transportation planning process is to be consistent with
the Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP). In New Mexico, this plan is called the
Comprehensive Transportation Safety Plan (CTSP).
Transportation and Land Use Development in the Region
The Rio Grande and the roadways of the mid 1800’s established the pattern of growth in
the region. Settlers made their homes along north-south transportation routes that
paralleled the Rio Grande, and the Village of Las Cruces (circa 1849) resulted from
overcrowding in the Village of Doña Ana. The Village of Mesilla was incorporated shortly
thereafter southwest of Las Cruces, on the opposite side of the Rio Grande. Residents used
a trail near Barker Road to commute between the two towns. Mesilla soon became the
major exchange center of goods and a stop for east/west stagecoach lines. The Civil War
created greater prosperity for both villages due to the amount of arable land available for
Both villages grew steadily until 1881 when development and commerce in Las Cruces boomed with the
arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. Many farms west of Las Cruces were purchased for
the railroad right-of-way and a train depot, and left-over railroad properties were divided into residential
lots, creating what is now known as the Alameda-Depot Historic District.
Between 1890 and 1916, the area experienced severe cycles of drought and annual flooding of the Rio
Grande. These weather conditions adversely affected agricultural productivity and ranching, producing loss
of crop and livestock. The Elephant Butte Dam was built to reduce the impacts of drought and flooding.
The project created a system of channels that permanently changed the geography of the region and
helped to stabilize water flows for farming and ranching.139 New roads were constructed parallel to
irrigation channels.
From the 1920s to 1930s, Las Cruces continued to grow around its original townsite, establishing a formal
street network with established residential areas and commercial subdivisions. Further growth occurred in
the mid 1940s when White Sands Proving Ground (which later became the White Sands Missile Range) was
created, generating many government and high-tech industrial jobs. US Highway 70 (Picacho Avenue and
Main Street) was the only thoroughfare between the town and the Proving Grounds. In 1946, Las Cruces
became a city.
By 1955 a Central Business District (CBD) developed between the original townsite and the Alameda
neighborhood. This attracted more people to the area and created a demand for more roads. US Highway
70 and New Mexico State Highway 342 (Amador Avenue) served as east-west roadways and they were
lined with residential and hotel development. The city’s industrial area extended west along Amador
Avenue, which doubled as the southern boundary for the CBD. Interstate Highway 25 was built in the
1950’s and it became the major north-south corridor on Las Cruces’ east side. This impacted the
community’s eastward expansion and additional east-west roadways developed including: Mesquite Street,
Lohman Avenue (the main east-west route); El Paseo (connection between the CBD, the University and
commercial entities); and Solano (a mixed-use strip of predominantly commercial land uses).
During the late 1960’s the city grew toward New Mexico State University and east toward White Sands
Missile Range. As a component of the federally-aided urban renewal program, Main Street was changed
into a pedestrian walkway/mall with two one-way loops (Church and Water Streets) surrounding the CBD.
Numerous local streets were also created during this period allowing access to new single family, medium
and high density residential developments.
As the population of Las Cruces expanded from 1970 to 1980, a second interstate highway was
constructed: Interstate Highway 10. Located just inside the southwest border of the City, it replaced US 70
as the main route leading west out of Las Cruces. The Las Cruces Flood Control Dam was built during this
period; it was designed to hold a 500-year flood and solve erosion/flooding problems that plagued the
City. Like I-25, it became another barrier to the City’s east/west transportation corridors. Roadrunner
Parkway and North Telshor Boulevard were built during this time, too, to ease traffic that resulted from
growth east of I-25 and along US 70.
Las Cruces Comprehensive Plan, 1994 – Transportation Element
Transportation Planning in the Region
Las Cruces Metropolitan Planning Organization (LCMPO)
The Las Cruces Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) coordinates comprehensive transportation
planning in the City of Las Cruces, the Town of Mesilla, and central Doña Ana County. It is responsible for
planning all aspects of the transportation system, including roads, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, public
transit and the airport. It also establishes annual project priorities for consideration of NMDOT when
programming transportation funds.
The LCMPO operates under the guidance of a Policy Committee comprised of nine elected officials: three
from Las Cruces, three from the Town of Mesilla, and three from Doña Ana County (DAC). It also consists
of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and a Bicycle & Pedestrian Facilities Advisory Committee
(BPFAC). The TAC includes representatives from the County, Mesilla, Las Cruces, NMSU, BLM,
RoadRUNNER Transit, DAC Flood Commission, NMDOT, Elephant Butte Irrigation District, and Las Cruces
Public Schools. The BPFAC is primarily a citizen committee; but some of the aforementioned agencies are
represented as well.
The LCMPO was formed in 1982 to create policies for future transportation development in the region. In
1985, the LCMPO’s policies were revised to match new federal guidelines. As a result, transportation
planning in Las Cruces became more focused on ensuring that transportation policy effectively created a
logical, efficient, and environmentally sensitive city-wide transportation system. In 1993, documents from
other communities were reviewed for guidance and in August 1994 the LCMPO’s Transportation Plan was
In 1996, the Plan was revised again to comply with local requirements and to be included in the City’s
Comprehensive Plan. The City of Las Cruces Planning and Zoning Commission then approved the
transportation element, submitted it to City Council for review, and by January 1997 a resolution to
approve the revised Transportation Element was passed. The LCMPO Policy Committee approved major
updates to the LCMPO Transportation Plan in 2000 and 2005. In 2005, the LCMPO area was expanded
to include Radium Springs, Vado, La Mesa, Chamberino, San Miguel, and Mesquite. Recently, the Las
Cruces LCMPO forecasted a need for $600 million in capital improvements over the next 20 years (20072027), including operations and maintenance costs for all components of the transportation network in the
LCMPO planning area.140
The Las Cruces MPO area has several pieces of transportation infrastructure that are important to national
security. These include:
Interstate Highway 10,
Interstate Highway 25;
U.S. Highway 70,
Las Cruces International Airport, and
Burlington Northern Santa Fe rail line.
The major roadways connect the Las Cruces MPO area to national and international facilities, such as the
Santa Teresa Port of Entry, Foreign Trade Zones located at the Las Cruces and Santa Teresa Airport, White
Sands Missile Range, NASA, the future Spaceport, El Paso, and Ciudad Juárez.141
New Mexico Transportation Infrastructure Futures Task Force Final Report – Transportation Focus on the Future,
November 2007
Draft Las Cruces MPO SAFETEA LU Compliance
Security issues associated to these facilities are addressed by the LCMPO through participation in the Local
Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). The LEPC is a coalition of first-responders, law enforcement
agencies, health-care providers, and other interested groups. The LEPC consults with the LCMPO and
RoadRUNNER transit in evacuation route identification and incident management planning.
Long Range Transportation Planning
To qualify for federal funds for transportation improvements within the boundaries of the LCMPO, the
LCMPO is required to update its 20-year Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) every five years. The
legislation that makes this requirement is known as the Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation
Equity Act of 2005 – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). SAFETEA-LU is a reauthorization of TEA-21, which
allows the federal Department of Transportation (USDOT) to require that transportation plans:
“for each metropolitan area shall provide for the development and integrated management and operation
of transportation systems and facilities (including pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities)
that will function as an intermodal transportation system for the metropolitan planning area and as an
integral part of an intermodal transportation system for the State and the United States.”142
The current LRTP was adopted on July 13, 2005 and its purpose is to:
„ Describe and analyze the current transportation conditions within the LCMPO area; and
Establish goals, objectives, policies, and recommendations to enhance to the area’s transportation
system over the next 25 years.
The update to the LRTP is important because it will focus on the region’s transportation system as a multimodal transportation network. This means that the Plan will:
„ Analyze and discuss all modes of transportation comprehensively and simultaneously in terms of
planning, design, policy implementation, operation, maintenance, safety and security issues (Safety and
security elements are now two separate items as specified in SAFETEA-LU); and
Encourage the best possible coordination, compatibility and connectivity of all modes of
transportation during implementation.
In addition, the 2010 update is essential because population in the Las Cruces MPO area is growing rapidly:
it is expected to increase approximately 40% over a 30-year period (2000-2030) to approximately
275,000.143 The 2010 Plan will review overarching issues that impact the Las Cruces MPO and frame the
next plan update. The existing LRTP presents goals, objectives and supporting policies for seven
transportation areas. These are summarized below:
Everyone within the MPO area should have access to a variety of transportation options, including
public transit, bicycle and park-n-ride facilities. Consequently, the MPO’s goal is to create a multimodal transportation network. One of the actions needed to accomplish this is to establish a
procedure that can help anyone working on a new transportation project, activity or program
determine how the project can be compatible with other modes of transportation. The procedure
would apply to every step of the process, starting with planning, construction, maintenance and
operation of a new transportation facility.
The Plan also expressed the desire for City and MPO policies and regulations to be mutually
supportive, particularly with those that address environmental issues. One issue that needs to be
addressed is how future transportation projects will prevent or mitigate environmental impacts,
especially where there are arroyos. Encouraging the use of “context sensitive solutions” is one way the
MPO plans to address environmental issues in transportation projects., website accessed January 28, 2008
Las Cruces Community Development Department, Department of Economics & Finance at the University of Texas
at El Paso (UTEP) and the Economics and International Business Department at New Mexico State University (NMSU)
„ The MPO’s two main goals regarding aviation and aerospace are to protect the long-term viability of
the Las Cruces Airport and make Spaceport America a reality. The MPO adopted policy to ensure that
airport facilities and services are maximized and integrated into the regional intermodal transportation
system. Capital improvements should be programmed with other elements of the LRTP and the Las
Cruces Airport Master Plan. This will help the agency achieve its goals of regaining passenger service
enplanements. Once it regains enplanements, the goal is to reach enplanements of approximately
10,000 passengers annually to qualify for federal entitlements.
The agency also adopted a policy that it will support City and County land use policies and decisions
that protect the long-term viability of the current airport location and its potential for economic
A key goal of the MPO is to advance bicycles as a viable mode of transportation within the Las Cruces
MPO area. For this purpose, it will encourage integrating bicycling facilities into all transportation
Addressing bicycle safety in railway-highway crossings is another important goal.
Improving pedestrian accessibility and facilities throughout the Las Cruces MPO is one of the agency’s
top goals. For this purpose, the agency’s policy is to create more direct walking routes, more sidewalks
and pathways that link neighborhoods to other destinations. Pedestrian routes, sidewalks and
pathways should be connected to other modes of transportation, which should include public transit,
bicycling and recreational facilities. In addition, this further encourages intermodal transportation
system goals.
Public Transportation
The MPO’s goal is to minimize the need to use an automobile. To achieve this goal the MPO has
adopted the policy of maximizing the availability of public transportation within the entire MPO area
in a safe, dependable and comfortable manner.
Enhance railroad service within the MPO to address the needs of both passenger and commercial
service and provide a safe, viable alternative to traditional transportation modes.
To achieve this goal, the LRTP emphasizes that development of rail policy and programs in support of
regional intermodalism is a necessary objective. Through implementing this objective, several policies
were identified, including:
Provide support for the development of the El Paso to Albuquerque passenger rail developing under GRIP
– a State of New Mexico investment partnership initiative introduced by Governor Richardson;
Support GRIP II rail initiatives that are part of an overall GRIP II total budget of $80.5 million. This budget
is to accommodate all transportation components, including highway maintenance, pavement
preservation, RailRUNNER operations, unfunded highway construction for capacity needs, bridge upgrades
and improvements, rural public transit, Park & Ride, aviation, and for 2000 miles of
bicycle/pedestrian/equestrian routes;
Redevelop rail depot facilities within the MPO area and determine the need for additional depots in
support of Park-n-Ride and carpooling. Specific rail depots facilities and surrounding area projects identified
include: Las Cruces Depot; and continued use of the Mesilla Park Depot and reconstruction and
enhancement of Mesilla Street from Hadley Avenue to Amador Avenue; and
Address safety concerns and support implementation of safety enhancements where rail transit traverses
other mode facilities
Thouroughfares refer to the entire road network, which encompasses all existing and proposed streets,
bridges, interstates, traffic signals, and street lights. The MPO’s goal is to create a system that maximizes
traffic movement and connectivity throughout the road network and to other modes of transportation.
The LRTP states that the:
“regional area needs to be able to support zero car households, low and moderate income
populations, as well as the influx of new residents, both retiring and relocating. Because the
LCMPO area covers parts of Doña Ana County, all of the Town of Mesilla, and the City of Las
Cruces, the transportation system needs to be looked at across the entire region both in light
of the significant growth that has occurred over the last 10 to 20 years, and the expected
future growth.”
For this reason, the network should also mitigate vehicular congestion in a cost effective, timely, and
environmentally sound manner. This means that the following must be accomplished during
„ Define all thoroughfares of the future transportation network
Encourage land uses that are compatible with the planned transportation system
Establish ROW and street design criteria to ensure thoroughfare corridors operate in a safe, accessible,
flexible, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing manner
Establish policy that favors the creation of transportation corridors that mitigate traffic congestion
In improving consultation with land use agencies the next scheduled update of the LRTP, which began in
February 2008, will include plans and maps of areas under BLM land use designations such as wilderness
areas and areas of environmental concern.
Public Input for LRTP
The Las Cruces MPO has actively sought the input of the public during all of their transportation planning
endeavors. Most recently, input was received for the 2005-2030 Transportation Plan. During these public
involvement sessions, numerous comments were received and many were subsequently incorporated to
the revised plan. Two recurring subjects received most comments:
Future alignment of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard south of Dripping Springs; and
East Mesa Grid network.
The LCMPO approved the alignment of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard; however, citizen concern motivated
the LCMPO to decide that it would revisit the alignment and functional classification of the roadway upon
the adoption of the Tortugas Preserve, which would then represent a changed condition and allow
reassessment of the alignment and classification.
The second item – East Mesa grid network – was based on coordinated review with the BLM and State
Land Office of lands destined for disposal and eventual development. The road network was extended as
the lands were released and it would be adjusted according to topography, arroyo crossings, soil types,
and other unforeseen factors as development occurs. The overall purpose of the grid network is to allow
for distribution of road building over different property owners such that one does not have to bear the
total burden of construction. A further goal is to disperse traffic thereby alleviating or preventing traffic
Recent Projects and Funding
In June 2007, the New Mexico State Transportation Commission approved more than $23.5 million in
Local Government Road Funds to improve city and county roads, school bus routes and public school
parking lots across the state. Included in this funding are: $180,000 toward drainage and parking lot
improvements at local public schools; $120,000 to rehabilitate Locust Street from Stanley Drive to Sam
Steele at New Mexico State University; $76,000 for the design, reconstruction and drainage improvements
of city streets in Lordsburg; $56,000 for pavement improvements, rehabilitation and reconstruction of city
streets in Truth or Consequences; and more than $566,000 for design, drainage improvements, pavement
improvements, rehabilitation and reconstruction of County roads in the Transportation District 1, which
includes Doña Ana, Grant, Luna, Sierra and Socorro counties. As a condition of receiving these funds, local
governments and school districts are required to match 25 percent of the state money.144
The City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County recently issued a list of capital improvement projects. Las
Cruces earmarked over $83 million for roadways and highways projects for the period of 2008 – 2013.
Excepting 2008, each year has essentially equal shares of the total amount designated for projects. In 2008,
the City anticipates spending just under $25 million on a series of roadway, traffic signalization,
intersection, sidewalk, and pedestrian path improvements and construction.
Doña Ana County’s capital improvement projects for the period 2008 -2012 total $100 million and include
major investments for sewer systems and roadway improvements. Since many improvements are
dependent on grants at the federal and state level the timing and phasing of projects is often difficult to
predict and execute. Because the County has over 1,000 miles of unpaved roads, the timing and level of
improvements for many areas is difficult to determine and is based on current resources and competitive
programs for meeting their needs. According to the Doña Ana Public Works Department, the south part of
the county is especially in need of road improvements to serve older, existing developments and to
provide service to many recently developed residential and industrial projects.
Energy Conservation Funding
Energy conservation is a part of both rideshare and transit service in terms of fuel consumption.
Approximately 37% of all energy used in the State is done so by the transportation sector, according to the
New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD). Because of this, the State
enacted a Bill to seek clean alternative fuels within the State. Several programs are being supported to
convert vehicles to alternative fuel consumption: natural gas, propane, electricity, hydrogen, or mixtures
containing ethanol or methanol.
Recently (2007), the federal Energy Independence and Security Act (H.R. 6) established an Energy and
Environment Block Grant program to reduce fossil-fuel emission and total energy use, along with
improving energy efficiency and conservation in the transportation and building sectors. As a result of the
passing of this law, New Mexico is expecting to receive approximately $7 million for subsequent
distribution to local governments. Consequently, Las Cruces can expect to receive a portion of that funding
to assist in their energy conservation efforts.
New Mexico Department of Transportation Press Release - June 21, 2007 “Transportation Commission
Approves Over
$23.5 Million to Help Local Governments - Monies Include Improvements To School Bus Routes, City
Streets In Las
Cruces, Silver City And Southwest New Mexico”
Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Planning
The New Mexico State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) is the State’s multi-modal
transportation preservation and capital improvement program. It was created to comply with federal
requirements to identify projects that use federal, state bond, state priority, state capital outlay, and local
government transportation funds. New Mexico’s STIP is updated every two years by the New Mexico
Department of Transportation (although the federal government’s minimum is every four years). An STIP
project list for 2008-2011 was recently released. The projects listed were identified with the help of local
and regional governments, Regional Planning Organizations (RPO), other state and transportation
agencies, and the public. Through the STIP, the NMDOT allocates resources to projects with the highest
priority, as identified through various planning and programming processes.145
The Las Cruces MPO issued a listing of TIP projects for its area, including projects at the airport that are
earmarked for 2012. The list covers a multitude of transportation improvements, roadway and highway
upgrades, ancillary roadway items including signs, traffic signals, street lighting, bridge rehabilitation,
highway expansion, and funds for the RoadRUNNER intermodal center and integrated human services
plan. To comply with SAFETEA-LU, the LCMPO modified the TIP ranking system to advance projects that
correct safety deficiencies.
The TIP for FY 2006-2008 also included various transportation improvement projects throughout Doña
Ana County. Of the many projects earmarked for funding over the period, three projects within Las Cruces
are scheduled for completion in 2008 and consist of: arterial lighting to enhance safety concerns along
Telshor Boulevard; Roadrunner Parkway; North Triviz Drive; University Avenue; and Stern Drive. Along I25, ramp modifications at University southbound ramp will eliminate existing safety hazards. A turnaround
will be constructed at the intersection of Del Rey Boulevard and US Highway 70. Finally, as part of the
Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership (GRIP) program, reconstruction of Interstate 10 from the
Texas State Line to Las Cruces was scheduled for 2007; this is the third segment of a total of three segments
of improvements for that highway.
Part of increasing safety is providing facilities for all modes of transportation and improving traveling
conditions for children walking to school, the elderly, disabled, and motorists driving in work zones. The
LCMPO has already worked with local schools and the City of Las Cruces to create a Safe Routes to School
pilot project that resulted in roadway and crossing improvements. The LCMPO has included in the TIP
Application and Evaluation, specific measures for evaluating current bicycle and pedestrian safety, and
assessing the need for increased safety in certain areas. In addition, the LCMPO has recently prioritized its
bicycle facility projects and just recently (2007) updated the Pedestrian Element of the LRTP to create a list
of high priority pedestrian facility projects. With the ability for the RoadRUNNER buses to accommodate
bicycles, with racks for two bikes on all their vehicles, the bicycle network becomes more integrated as an
essential part of the transportation network. The transit system is incomplete without modes that reach
transit stops, and this means connected bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Las Cruces MPO staff is updating the TIP Application and ranking process to reflect adherence of the
project to current plans and its integration of intermodal elements, safety, and security issues. – State Transportation Improvement Plan, accessed
website 01-30-08
Intelligent Transportation System
The Las Cruces Intelligent Transportation System Regional Architecture is a framework for transportation
systems integration in the region over the next 20 years. The update of the ITS Architecture was funded
through the ITS Bureau of the NMDOT and has been developed through a cooperative effort by the
region's transportation agencies covering all surface transportation modes and all roadway facilities in the
The first version of the Las Cruces ITS Regional Architecture was adopted by the LCMPO Policy Committee
in March 2004. An update of the Architecture was necessary to keep up with the recent improvements
made to the National Architecture as well as new technologies that are now available.147
Transportation Planning in Doña Ana County
The Doña Ana County Transportation Office is responsible for the maintenance of more than 1,380 miles
of existing county roads, as well as construction of new roads within the county's borders.
The Doña Ana County Comprehensive Plan 1995-2015 lists the need to provide basic infrastructure to the
entire County as one of the County’s primary goals. This includes transportation. Rapid growth within the
County along with a change from rural to urban densities is warranting the need to improve highways such
that growth and economic development can be accommodated appropriately.
Transportation Planning in the Extra Territorial Zone
The Extra Territorial Zone in Doña Ana County includes the City of Las Cruces city limits, the New Mexico
State University, and five sub-areas identified as: ETZ East Mesa; ETZ North Valley; ETZ South Valley; ETZ
Tortugas Mountain East Mesa; and ETZ West Mesa.
The Las Cruces and ETZ Transportation Plan for the period 2000-2020 (an element within the ETZ
Comprehensive Plan) identified a series of goals, objectives, supporting policy, and programs for
implementing the policies for all areas within the ETZ. Overall goals identified in the Plan consisted of the
ETZ Area in General
„ Establish and develop the infrastructure for High Density Corridors
East Mesa Area
Advanced right-of-way reservation/acquisitions for major arterial roadways should be negotiated with
public and private sector land owners
Establish a Corridor Study Area for the possible development of an East-West transportation link
between Brahman Road and North Third Street (Town-site of Organ)
West Mesa Area
Retain natural open space areas south of Interstate 10 and west of the Rio Grande
Establish a Corridor Study Area for redirecting the traffic flow on Shalem Colony Trail
Action Item 3 - Intelligent Transportation Systems Regional Architecture, Metropolitan Planning
Organization (MPO) Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Meeting Minutes, November 1, 2007
147 Ibid – Accompanying TAC Information Packet
North-South River Valleys
„ Non-agricultural commercial development should be minimized unless major transportation access is
Location and acquisition of cross-valley roadway corridors should be finalized
Six goals and corresponding objectives and policies were presented throughout the Plan. In summary, the
goals were framed around the need to develop, adopt, and maintain a Comprehensive Plan and a Future
Land Use Concept Map for the entire ETZ jurisdiction such that the plan reflects the public’s recommended
directions for growth, general land uses, densities, protecting areas from incompatible uses, and achieving
an urban form that supports and enhances the ETZ’s unique environment. Further, the Comprehensive Plan
is to promote a coordinated open space and recreational program, achieve an interconnected system of
open space and network of pedestrian, horse, and bicycle trails, and identify ‘gateways’ to the ETZ
communities and the City of Las Cruces. Finally, the Comprehensive Plan is to provide for economic and
industrial development with diverse, non-polluting employment tailored to the ETZ sub-area needs and
potentials. In support of this development, the Plan is to provide for coordinated planning and
development of a transportation network that will result in the development of an efficient, effective and
economical thoroughfare system.
El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization
The area of El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization (EPMPO) covers El Paso County and portions of
Doña Ana and Otero counties. The geographic layout of New Mexico enables coordination between
Federal Highway Authority’s (FHWA) New Mexico and Texas Divisions, NMDOT (District 1 & 2) and
Texas Department of Transportation District 24.148 The EPMPO Study Area was expanded into New
Mexico in 2006 after completion of a transportation planning document, Gateway 2030 MTP. Of the
total 4,319 miles of roadway within the EPMPO Study Area, 448 miles are located in New Mexico.149
The El Paso MPO established its long-range transportation plan during preparation of the TransBorder
2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP). Goals it established in support of improving accessibility
and mobility with multi-modal traveling options in the El Paso MTP Study Area consisted of the following:
Improve access and facilitate efficient intermodal transfers throughout the region;
Implement congestion management system strategies to achieve maximum efficiency of current
transportation network;
Provide convenient intermodal connections
Integrate land use and transportation solutions that offer the best opportunities to reduce vehicle miles
traveled, promote alternative modes, and protect the natural environment;
Planning efforts should support compact, pedestrian-oriented land use development throughout the
EPMPO Study Area;
Encourage redevelopment and infill development;
Support development of roadways and associated facilities such that conformance to the National
Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) are met;
Promote sustainability by jointly addressing environmental issues and fostering a strong sense of
community, partnership, and consensus among key stakeholders.
TransBorder 2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization
(MPO), November 16, 2007
149 Ibid
The El Paso MPO has supported capacity enhancing studies/projects such as those conducted by the Texas
Department of Transportation, El Paso District. The agency prepared a study to examine alternative routes
to relieve traffic on Interstate 10. Three alternatives were examined. One is known as the Southern Relief
Route (SRR), which is a 42-mile route along I-10 on the westerly limits of El Paso. The SRR could
potentially extend from the Texas/New Mexico State Line to Sunland Park Drive, and then onward to the
easterly parts of I-10. This alternative includes new express toll lanes on the aforementioned section of I-10.
Several alternatives were researched, and the Transportation Policy Board (TPB) approved a scenario
containing four projects that include the I-10 collector distributors. The main purpose of the four projects is
to increase roadway carrying capacity. The projects are scheduled for 2015, 2025 and 2035. Six corridors
are identified for the 149 projects and include Interstate 10 West, US 54, Central, Montana, Interstate 10
East, and New Mexico Route 273/28.
In addition to the capacity enhancing projects, the EPMPO also recognized the need for non-capacity
projects and included many of these along with overall maintenance and rehabilitation of roadways. One
specific area of concern is the existing ingress and egress interface between freeways, arterials, and local
The EPMPO has undertaken revisions to the thoroughfare plan and has developed one proposal to revise
the categories of thoroughfares and define the categories in more detail. Recommendations stem from
allowing access from adjacent properties in a controlled manner and to define ‘super arterials’ from
principal arterials’.
With expansion of the EPMPO’s planning boundary to accommodate a portion of New Mexico, there is
discussion of conducting a transportation study for the New Mexico planning-shed north of the Texas State
Line between Interstate 10 and US 54 abutting the Las Cruces MPO’s planning limits and portions of Doña
Ana and Otero County. The super arterial concept and other restrictive transportation ordinances will be
Coordinated Transportation Planning
Transportation planning is an evolving, and ever-changing element of a city, county, region, and state. An
integral element of planning for the future growth of a community is a thorough review of the existing
transportation network. It also requires a coordinated effort among all agencies to be sure that intermodal
and multi-modal transportation elements achieve the highest efficiency in moving people from place to
To that end, the City of Las Cruces MPO, the South Central Regional Planning Organization (SCRPO),
NMDOT District 1 and El Paso MPO are working collectively and have representatives of each
organization in their overall transportation planning efforts. Transportation planners from El Paso MPO,
Las Cruces MPO, South Central Council of Governments (SCCOG), Alamogordo, Ciudad Juárez and others
have been meeting informally as the International Transit Summit. Meetings to discuss public transportation
issues and coordinate projects have been hosted in Las Cruces and El Paso.
Close collaboration is also necessary with local, state, federal land agencies that manage land and natural,
cultural and historic resources. It is important to do so as the LCMPO area grows, as the thoroughfare
system develops, and as a part of the 2010 Long Range Transportation Plan update. The LCMPO has
worked closely with the BLM on its TriCounty Regional Management Plan, sharing GIS files and providing
assistance in maps that show BLM plan alternatives in relation to the LCMPO Thoroughfare Plan. Although
the Las Cruces MPO is not currently a Transportation Management Area (TMA), the LCMPO promotes
environmental stewardship through non-motorized transportation to alleviate air quality issues.
For the integration of land use and transportation planning and planned growth strategies, the Las Cruces
MPO staff:
„ Actively participates (review and voting) on the Development Review Committees of the City of Las
Cruces and the Extra Territorial Zone
Supports the City of Las Cruces Economic Development and Revitalization Department and has
coordinated specifically in relation to changes in the Las Cruces Downtown transportation network,
including transit, bicycling, and walking routes
Supports the Town of Mesilla in coordinating transportation with the development of cluster
Reviewed “Livability! The Report of the Governor’s Task Force on Our Communities, Our Future” to
determine consistent objectives with the LRTP, and will include some of these issues, such as Transit
Oriented Development (TOD) into the 2010 update.
Will continue to participate in the Vision 2040 process;
Coordinates with the BLM and State Land Office; and
Will focus on ensuring consistent land use and transportation compatibility and the inclusion of nonmotorized users for the 2010 LRTP.
Cross-Border Collaboration
U.S.-Mexico Joint Working Committee on Transportation Planning
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has a joint working committee for transportation planning
at border crossings. The U.S.-Mexico Joint Working Committee on Transportation Planning (JWC) is a
binational group whose primary focus is to cooperate on land transportation planning and the facilitation
of efficient, safe, and economical cross-border transportation movements. Its mission is to “analyze,
develop, and coordinate plans and programs that reflect the border transportation needs of both
countries.”151 The JWC was formed as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The U.S. and Mexico recognized the need for a wellcoordinated transportation planning process along the border to facilitate development of economic and
commercial relations associated with the Agreement. Among other things, the JWC is developing a
Geographic Information System (GIS) for the border region, and a traffic simulation model (known as
Border Wizard) for Mexican Point of Entry operations. Further, the group has approved bi-national
methodologies for evaluating border transportation corridor needs and relieving bottlenecks.
The JWC is comprised of transportation professionals from FHWA and the Mexican Secretariat of
Communication and Transportation (SCT). Other JWC members include representatives from: the U.S.
Department of State (DOS), the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE), the Departments of
Transportation (DOT) of the four U.S. border states and the six Mexican border states, the General Services
Administration (GSA) and the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP).152
U.S.-Mexico Binational Bridges & Border Crossing Group (BBBXG)
The U.S.-Mexico Binational Bridges & Border Crossing Group (BBBXG) discusses planned or ongoing
border crossing projects along the 1,952 mile U.S.-Mexico border. This group is co-chaired by the US DOS
and the Mexican Secretariat of Foreign Relations (SRE), and attended by: Department of Homeland
Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP); General Services Administration (GSA); U.S. Coast
Guard; Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); Food and Drug Administration (FDA); FHWA;
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA); International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC); and the
respective departments of transportation and border authorities of the border states in the US and Mexico.
153; website accessed February 12, 2008
153 US Department of State, November 2003
U.S.- Mexico BBBXG has undertaken the most far-reaching changes since the group's inception to improve
its performance and mission. These reforms enable both governments to respond more effectively to the
demand for new border crossings and to respond to the problem of bottlenecks that impede the efficiency
of existing crossings.
Other efforts
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (US CBP) and the General Customs Administration of Mexico (GCAM)
have taken significant strides to guarantee the secure and efficient flow of trade between the two nations.
The two agencies have harmonized and extended hours of service at ports of entry in coordination with
trade communities. They have expanded partnerships with the private sector to implement supply chain
security. Programs include the Business Anti-Smuggling Coalition, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against
Terrorism, and Mexico's Compliant Importer/Exporter Program. Approximately, 178 out of the 300 largest
traders have already been certified by the Compliant Importer/Exporter Program (this accounts for 66% of
bilateral trade). On October 27, 2003, an initial FAST (Free and Secure Trade) lane was opened in El PasoJuárez crossing. Other efforts in the trade area include: information management and exchange, securing
in-transit shipments, and major efforts to research, share and effectively implement the latest in
technological advances in support of secure and efficient processing.154
With respect to border security challenges, the US and Mexico governments have coordinated efforts for
responding to emergency situations with particular emphasis on POEs. Ten Border Liaison Mechanisms
have been established which has made it possible for federal, state, and local authorities from both
countries to act promptly and collaboratively to address local problems and conditions.
Funding of $25 million has been used to support establishment of five Secure Electronic Network for
Traveler's Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) lanes; to install non-intrusive inspection equipment at major POE’s; to
provide training and equipment to prevent migrant deaths and strengthen border safety; to implement the
Border Wizard for better POE management, and to implement a shared Advanced Passenger Information
System (APIS) to improve/expedite screening of air travelers to identify high-risk individuals. APIS was
expected to be operational during the first quarter of 2004.
Road Systems and Traffic
Las Cruces and Doña Ana County roadway system consists of principal and minor arterials, Interstate
Highways, State and County-owned highways and roadways and local collector streets. The roadway
network developed as a result of orientation to the Rio Grande, initially paralleling the Rio Grande in a
north-south orientation, and then branching east-west from the center of town. Primary arterials were later
constructed in a grid-like fashion along with local and collector streets throughout residential areas.
Las Cruces
Two Interstate Highways, I-10 and I-25, and US Highway 70 exist in Las Cruces along with many state
highways, and local roadways. There are approximately 943 centerline miles of roadways within the Las
Cruces MPO area. I-10 passes through the southern portion of the LCMPO area and connects Texas and
Arizona. The LRTP indicated that approximately 11,000 passenger cars and trucks/day west of Las Cruces
utilize the road and highway network. Once I-10 interchanges with I-25 to the south of Las Cruces, that
amount increases to 18,000 vehicles. I-10 serves as the main east-west truck route through the region and
the access and maintenance are regulated through the NMDOT and FHWA. Approximately 5,000 trucks
utilize the network on a daily basis.
154; website accessed February 13, 2008
Controlled access is provided on I-25, I-10, and US 70 from I-25 to NASA. I-25 moves traffic through the
LCMPO region more efficiently than other types of highways. It starts at its interchange with I-10 near the
southern end of Las Cruces and continues north through the LCMPO. Data compiled for the LRTP indicates
that average daily traffic on I-25 ranges from 14,000 north of I-10 to 18,000 at US Highway 70, and 5,000
to the north.
Other highways within the LCMPO region include US Highway 70, which begins at its interchange with I10 west of Las Cruces. This highway is named North Main Street and Picacho Avenue when it traverses the
City. East of I-25 controlled access is provided along the highway with frontage roads providing direct
property access. NMDOT regulates access to this highway.
Some arterials within the LCMPO area have become classified as ‘principal arterials’ due to growth in the
area resulting in increased traffic volume. These roads were originally not designed to carry the current
traffic loads. While the following listing is not comprehensive, it provides a sampling of some of the
arterials that were initially designed to carry less traffic loads than what they carry today:
Main Street
Del Ray Boulevard
El Paseo Road
El Camino Real
Although these roads are able to accommodate current traffic loads, they have not been designed as
principal arterials and could quickly reach capacity. They currently serve more motorists than highways,
which are classified for greater capacity. An example is Lohman Avenue, which is the busiest principal
arterial at over 35,300 vehicles per day.155 Restricted rights-of-way and the expense of acquiring buildings
and property may preclude widening improvements to these roads to accommodate future capacity needs.
However, other traffic management techniques, including access management and implementation of
Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) messaging could alleviate these anticipated capacity concerns. ITS
can provide advance warning to motorists of capacity issues, and management of ingress and egress to
businesses along busy corridors could aid in restoring free-flow movement of traffic. Further, the build out
of other areas may also aid in the dispersement of traffic.
Minor arterials are those that carry moderate to large volumes of traffic and limit direct access to individual
properties. These roadways often carry more than 5,000 vehicles per day. Within the LCMPO region,
Alameda Boulevard, Avenida de Mesilla (west of I-10), and Doña Ana Road are considered to be minor
Collector Roads
Collector roads provide link local streets to arterials. Evelyn Street, McClure Road, and Farney Lane are
examples of collector roads. These streets are typically used for short trips.
Local streets
Local streets constitute the majority of roads within the LCMPO area while carrying the least amount of
traffic. They provide neighborhood traffic circulation and property access.
Las Cruces MPO 2005 Transportation Plan 2005-2030, July 2005
Current Conditions and Existing Concerns
Improvements with the construction or reconstruction of roadways in the LCMPO area have relieved some
areas of congestion and turning issues. The east-west movement in Mesilla Valley has been restricted for
some time due to the natural topography and Flood Control Dam located east of I-25 between Lohman
Avenue and North Main Street. Construction of the US 70 mainline, frontage road system, and interchange
improvements at I-25 have made this area better with respect to congestion. Though these improvements
have been made, east-west movement is still an area of concern. Expansion of other modes of
transportation, such as public transportation and bicycle facilities, along with implementation of the
Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) on these roadways may improve traffic flow without the addition
of travel lanes.
Within the LCMPO area, the condition of roadways and signalization of intersections varies greatly: some
are able to accommodate current and future transportation needs and traffic volume, while others are
currently obsolete in their ability to meet future needs. Many locations are further in need of signalization,
one in particular being Tortugas Street, where large amounts of traffic are becoming a safety issue, as was
identified in a recent NMDOT committee meeting regarding an overall review of state transportation
In efforts to address environmental issues, the LCMPO is working together with the County to be actively
committed to the paving of East Mesa dirt and gravel roads to prevent future air quality degradation and
public safety concerns.
Doña Ana County
The County is served by two major U.S. Interstate Highways, I-10 and I-25. Interstate 10 facilitate traffic to
and from Texas and the international border with Mexico. The International Beltway is as a loop road that
facilitates traffic through Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas. In New Mexico, it is known as Artcraft Road; in
Texas as State Route 375, or the Avenue of the Americans; and in Mexico as the Casas Grandes Highway.
Public transit within city limits and in parts of the Town of Mesilla is provided primarily by RoadRUNNER
Transit, but the service is not available in other areas of the County. Efforts to accommodate areas not
served by RoadRUNNER are through several private transit operators.
State of New Mexico
New Mexico is served by three interstate highways: I-40, I-10, and I-25. I-40 is an east-west highway that
serves much of the nation and crosses the state in Albuquerque; I-10 is another east-west highway that
serves primarily the southern U.S. It runs from Arizona to New Mexico, intersecting I-25 at Las Cruces and
carrying traffic further south to El Paso, TX and Mexico. I-25 is a north-south highway that stretches from
Denver to New Mexico, terminating in Las Cruces at its junction with I-10. It intersects I-40 at Albuquerque
and I-10 at Las Cruces. I-25 is also unofficially considered as part of the Pan-American Highway, which
extends from Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.
Other state and county roadways also facilitate traffic throughout the state following the topography and
natural features that characterize New Mexico. In addition to interstate highways there is a network of
railroads, seven commercial carrier airports, and three border crossings into Mexico that serve New
Mexico. Albuquerque is the main arrival and departure point for the state’s commercial passenger service.
State Safety and Alcohol-related Accident Prevention Measures
The New Mexico Comprehensive Transportation Safety Plan (CTSP) is a jointly sponsored, multiple agency
document. It is a multimodal, strategic plan that describes proposed high-priority transportation safety
countermeasures that are intended to reduce injuries and fatalities to transit riders, motorists, bicyclists, and
pedestrians on New Mexico’s surface transportation network.
The purpose of the New Mexico CTSP is to provide all of the transportation safety agency stakeholders in
New Mexico with a new planning and coordination tool to allow better collaboration between various
The overall goal of the CTSP is to reduce transportation-related injuries and fatalities. The goal is to achieve
a 20 percent reduction in the state fatality rate, or 1.67 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel
(VMT) by 2010.156 The CTSP is a requirement of SAFETEA-LU and is being developed in order to document
how all of the agencies (local, county, State, and regional) are working together toward implementing a
set of strategies that will continue to manage the State’s universe of public access roadways, bikeways, and
transit systems in an increasingly safe manner.
New Mexico has had a long history of high rates of alcohol-related fatal crashes. Despite the fact that the
State has attempted to address the problem through legislation, education, and enforcement, New Mexico
leads the nation in this regard. Legislation was passed in 1993 to further strengthen New Mexico's DWI
laws and anti-DWI environment. A study was initially intended to assess the extent to which those legal
changes had served to reduce alcohol-related fatalities. In 2004, the State’s traffic fatality rate per 100
million vehicle miles of travel (VMT) was 2.22, a substantial increase over the preceding years.157 This
prompted the commencement of the CTSP in 2006. Goals of the CTSP included establishing performance
measurements relevant to all modes of transportation, including highways, transit, bicycle and pedestrian,
and commercial vehicles; develop a mechanism for interagency coordination to address safety issues and
develop partnership agreements; conduct public outreach and education programs in support of the CTSP;
provide a strategic implementation plan that can easily be incorporated into state, local, and tribal
government plans and programs; and determine ways to measure the progress of meeting the CTSP goals
and objectives and to update the plan to reflect progress or changing needs.
Driver Safety
Alcohol use plays a significant role in the number and frequency of driver accidents in New Mexico. In
2004, 15 percent of all drivers in crashes were teenagers, although teenagers comprised only five percent of
New Mexico’s drivers. Fifty-five percent of teenage crash deaths involved alcohol and young adults
(people between the ages of 20 and 24).158
A sobriety checkpoint enforcement program has helped increase public awareness of more severe sanctions
and enforcement efforts being put forth by the State of New Mexico. This program has been implemented
in efforts to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents and to further enforce severe sanctions for
drunk driving. Through efforts related to the checkpoint enforcement program, New Mexico is reducing its
alcohol-related fatal crash rate and is now closer to the national average. In 1997, 35.7% of New Mexico's
fatal crashes involved at least one person with a BAC of .10 or greater, compared with the national figure
of 30.3%. This is a marked improvement over the corresponding figures of 48.0% and 34.9% from
New Mexico Comprehensive Transportation Safety Plan (CTSP), New Mexico Department of
Transportation (NMDOT) 2006
157 Evaluation of Changes in New Mexico's Anti-DWI Efforts, John H. Lacey and Ralph K. Jones, February
158 New Mexico Comprehensive Transportation Safety Plan (CTSP), New Mexico Department of
Transportation (NMDOT) 2006
159 Evaluation of Changes in New Mexico's Anti-DWI Efforts, John H. Lacey and Ralph K. Jones, February
New Mexico has a long history of innovative change with respect to driver safety issues. They were first to
adopt administrative license revocation (ALR) which went into effect in 1984. New Mexico was also one of
the first States to adopt mandatory safety belt use laws. These interventions have resulted in a gradual
decline in New Mexico's alcohol-related fatal crashes.160 Nonetheless, even with that progress, in 1993
New Mexico still had an alcohol-related crash rate well above the national average. In fact, in 1993,
48.0% of fatal crashes in New Mexico involved at least one person with a BAC of .10 or greater. The
corresponding figure for the nation as a whole was 34.9%. 161
NMDOT recently (June 2008) announced the placement of new devices that noninvasively measure blood
alcohol content (BAC) for people convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Six TruTouch 1100 blood
alcohol testing devices that employ a technology known as near infrared spectroscopy to measure alcohol
and verify identity were purchased for use initially by the .New Mexico judicial agencies. Two of the
TruTouch devices will be used in Albuquerque’s Metro Court. One device each will also be utilized by
county probation and parole offices in Lea, Sandoval and San Juan Counties, while another device is
awaiting a placement decision. 162
Bus Service, Park & Ride, and Car Pools
Public transportation in Las Cruces is provided by RoadRUNNER Transit. The RoadRUNNER fleet consists
of 19 vehicles and in fiscal year 2006 provided over 759,000 trips system-wide. Nine routes service the
City area. Recently, the service plan underwent significant schedule changes making bus frequency hourly
rather than the current 40-minute schedule that has been in operation since 1995. By switching the
frequency to every hour and half-hour, riders will better be able to remember and learn the time schedule.
The routes will also be revamped to eliminate most of the one-directional loops that have caused riders to
travel far out of the direction that they need to go. This unnecessarily causes riders to spend too much time
riding a bus to get to a desired location, something that can potentially deter would-be riders.
On August 2007, RoadRUNNER Transit partnered with New Mexico State University to provide three
integrated bus routes on campus during regular NMSU semesters. This service replaced the Aggie Shuttle
which was operated by the City of Las Cruces and the NMSU Parking Shuttle.
Paratransit service began in 1986 and it was expanded in 1994 to include the entire city limits of Las Cruces,
including the East Mesa. The headway times were cut back from the original 30 minutes to 40 minutes
because of the need to service the expanding geography of Las Cruces. In 1997, the senior transportation
offered through the City was combined with the Dial-a-Ride service of RoadRUNNER.
RoadRUNNER Transit offers a variety of passes for purchase:
Table 8-1. RoadRUNNER Transit Fares- 2007
Pass Type
30-ride pass
31-day pass
Weekly pass
Daily pass
Single ride
1Adults are ages 19-59.
2Youth, senior citizens (60 yrs. and older), persons with
disabilities, Medicare holders, and students. Children under age
5 ride for free.
Adults may also purchase a lot of 12 tokens for $5.00 or individually at $0.50 per token.
162 (accessed July 23, 2008)
A downtown parking shuttle is free to the public and located at Campo and Arizona Streets. This shuttle
provides service to the City Office Center at Alameda and Lohman, the Federal Court, the Downtown
Main Street and City Hall. It runs Monday through Friday (except Holidays) every 15 minutes and every 78 minutes during peak morning, mid-day and afternoon hours.
A Park-n-Ride service exists for riders who take RoadRUNNER transit. Two lots exist within Las Cruces: one
at the Ashley Furniture Home Store Lot on Del Rey Boulevard, the other at the University, east of the Pan
American Center on the Southeast. The Park –n – Ride service also provides service to and from the White
Sands Missile Range. The service operates during the core AM and PM peak hours. Cost for the service is:
one-way fare - $3.00. A monthly pass can be purchased for $90.00.
In addition to Park-n-Ride lots, New Mexico participates in a web-based car pool internet site,, for public use in listing available car pools and for those seeking a car pool. Currently,
there are 22 listings for the Las Cruces area. The carpools, vanpools, and rideshare provide for 17% of
work-bound trips residents living in Las Cruces as of the 2000 Census.163 These ‘pools’ are focused primarily
at employees of NASA, White Sands Missile Range, and El Paso manufacturing plants.
The measurement of performance of a public transportation system is ridership per revenue hour. The
accepted minimum ridership per revenue hour is 17 persons; less than this amount reflects a system that is
not functioning to its available capacity. The RoadRUNNER system had a ridership per revenue hour of
20.71 persons per hour in 2003 (more recent data to come). During the period of 1989 through 2003,
ridership per revenue hour for RoadRUNNER was approximately 20 to 28 persons/hour.164
Individuals who use the transit system most often are in the age groups 17-21, 22-30, and 31-49 (figures
ordered from highest to lowest frequency of use). A ridership survey further disclosed that “ridership based
on family income indicates that those persons who use the system are in the lower income ranges and most
likely cannot afford an automobile.”165 Fixed-route service typically serves a person who cannot own
and/or maintain an automobile.
Coordinated Public Transit-Human Services Transportation
A requirement of SAFETEA-LU legislation for all Section 5310 Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities,
Section 5316 Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC), and Section 5317 New Freedom program
recipients, is the preparation of a coordinated public transit-human services transportation plan. The Transit
Bureau of the NMDOT has taken the lead on development of this plan and has made it available via their
The purpose of the plan is to analyze transit services within a given region. Specific to Doña Ana County
and Las Cruces, the Transit Bureau reviewed transit services within the South Central Regional Planning
Organizations (RPO), along with the Las Cruces MPO. The plan assessed the needs and strategies for future
transit services in the area. The plan also presented an analysis of the existing distribution of transit services
funded by each federally-funded program and those services provided by the New Mexico Human Services
Department, and the New Mexico Department of Aging and Long Term Services. The outcome of the
analysis included results from comparing the transit needs with distribution of transit services. This
established a clear picture of where there are existing and future populations of elderly persons, those with
disabilities, and/or those in poverty. A listing of strategies for future transit service in the South Central RPO
and Las Cruces MPO was provided. For transit projects to receive Section 5310, 5316, and 5317 grant
funds, the projects must be consistent with the findings of the report.
Las Cruces MPO 2005-2030 LRTP, p. 31
Ibid, p. 30
165 Ibid, p. 30
Public Transit Funding and Future Improvements
In 2003 two transit-related items were passed and signed into law by the Governor of New Mexico:
Transit Cap Removal Act, and Regional Transit District Enabling Act. The Transit Cap Removal Act
removed a statutory limit on the amount of State funds that could be spent on public transportation. The
previous limit was $50,000. The Regional Transit District Enabling Act allows for a transit district between
two or more jurisdictions. This Act also allowed the State to assist in the creation of a regional transit
district and allowed up to $250,000 per district to the first three districts certified by the NMDOT.166
RoadRUNNER Transit staff have also indicated that when funding becomes available, an extension of the
service hours for all routes would occur. The extended hours would include providing service into the
evening hours on weekdays, and adding morning hours on Saturday and service on Sunday. In addition to
extended service, the staff recognizes and agrees with a recommendation to add a new route and add
buses to two existing routes to make them bi-directional. All of these recommendations were identified in
the 2007-2011 Strategic Plan (March 2007).
The LRTP identified ways in which implementation of objectives and supporting policies could be done.
Specifically, the LCMPO was to explore options for the creation of a regional transit district (RTD) for
purposes of consolidating the financing, planning, constructing, operating, maintaining, and promoting a
regional public transit system, which could serve Doña Ana County. As a result of this, the South Central
Regional Transit District (SCRTD) was formed in September 2006 as a Regional Transit District pursuant to
the New Mexico Regional Transit District Act, Chapter 73, Article 25, Sections 1-18, NMSA 1978 (2003).
The SCRTD includes the following municipalities: City of Alamogordo, City of Las Cruces, City of Socorro,
City of Sunland Park, City of Truth or Consequences, City of Elephant Butte, Doña Ana County, Sierra
County, Otero County, Town of Mesilla, Village of Hatch, and Village of Williamsburg.
The purpose of the District, being a multimodal public transit district, is to finance, construct, operate,
maintain, and promote an efficient, sustainable, and regional multi-modal transportation system. Further,
the District is to:
„ Allow multijurisdictional public transit systems to reduce the congestion of single-occupant motor
vehicle traffic by providing transportation options for residents;
Decrease automobile accidents by reducing traffic congestion on freeways and streets;
Reduce noise and air pollution produced by motor vehicles;
Prolong and extend the life of New Mexico's existing roadways by easing the traffic burden;
Provide residents with a choice of transportation alternatives so that seniors, youth, low income and
mobility-impaired residents and others unable to drive or afford motor vehicles continue to have full
access to the goods, services, jobs and activities of the community;
Improve the New Mexico economy by increasing workforce and citizen access to education and higher
paying jobs; and
Prolong and extend petroleum resources.167
The RTD provides this guidance through the “Regional Transit Mobility Concept for the South Central
Regional Transit District”. As stated in the by-laws and contract terms of the SCRTD, “the District shall
work in coordination with the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), Regional Planning
Organizations (RPOs), and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to provide regional transit
planning services needed to plan and direct the Regional Transit Services of the District, to pursue state and
federal funding, and to coordinate overall transportation policy within the area in which it provides
Regional Transit Services”.168
Las Cruces MPO LRTP, p. 29
New Mexico Regional Transit District Act, Chapter 73, Article 25, Sections 1-18, NMSA 1978 (2003),
168 South Central Regional Transit District Intergovernmental Contract, September 21, 2006.
Formation of the RTD and acceptance by Doña Ana County and Las Cruces through a listing of resolutions
allows for the forward progress of the region toward a multi-modal inter-related transportation system
that can better service the municipalities within the District by determining the funding levels of regional
public transit services. The creation of a service and financial plan for the SCRTD, using the startup funds
provided by the State, began in April 2008.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Systems
A technical committee called the Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities Advisory Committee (BPFAC) provides
input to the Las Cruces MPO on issues that impact bicycle and pedestrian needs, including transit. The
BPFAC is made up of citizens and staff members from the City of Las Cruces, Doña Ana County, Town of
Mesilla, NMDOT and NMSU. The LCMPO staff coordinates bicycle improvements with the City of Las
Cruces Traffic Engineer in an effort to continue linking existing facilities and major destinations.
An evaluation of bicycle facility development conducted during preparation of the 2000 LCMPO
Transportation Plan indicated that 10.7 miles of in-road bicycle facilities had been developed.169 Most of
these facilities were within the jurisdiction of Las Cruces. New in-road facilities that have been built amount
to approximately 32 miles, for a total of 50 miles. Some of these are the direct result of roadway
construction, including US Highway 70 reconstruction, Lohman Avenue extension, and shoulder widening
along Dripping Springs Road.
New multi-use paths have also been constructed in the LCMPO area for a total of approximately 12 miles
of walkway. These included extensions to two paths: Rio Grande Path, 1.1 mile extension for a total of 4.5
miles; and 2.75 miles extension of the Triviz Multi-Use Path, for a total of approximately 4.75 miles,
bringing the total trail mileage in the LCMPO area to about 12.4 miles.
The LRTP cites routes that have been identified by the BFAC as high priority for implementation of bicycle
facilities. Approximately eight roadways, an estimated 30 bicycle facilities, and another 23 bicycle facilities
are listed as priority routes for facility implementation, locations where facilities require maintenance, such
as signs and painting, and locations that require total reconstruction (respectively). The following objectives
were established for achieving the bicycle goal:
Maintain and expand the established Bicycle Facility Plan (BFP) through continuous and coordinated
review, analysis, and implementation.
Encourage the adoption of specific facility and system design criteria for bicycle facilities.
LCMPO shall recommend policies and procedures for the development of new facilities within
proposed changes in land uses and proposed developments.
Implement bicycle parking requirements within the LCMPO.
Establish awareness campaigns and safety programs that promote the use of bicycles as a mode of
RoadRUNNER Transit also made a commitment: in 2002 and 2003 the Transit Department purchased and
installed bicycle racks on all of their buses in their existing fleet.
2005 Transportation Plan 2005-2030, MPO Las Cruces (City of Las Cruces, Town of Mesilla, Doña Ana
County), July 13, 2005
During development of the Bicycle Facility and Safety Master Plan (BFSMP) a survey was conducted of
households in the Las Cruces area. Results indicate that most of the households in the Las Cruces area
reported owning and riding bicycles. 170 The Plan indicates that there is a strong potential for bicycle use,
currently and in the future. The survey gives reason to believe that bicycle usage would increase with the
development of safe, connected bicycle facilities. The Plan indicates that more people in the area would
use their bicycles if facilities specific to bicycle use were provided. Most riders also indicated that they
prefer in-road bicycle lanes on collectors and arterials since they provide the most direct route to their
destination. According to AASHTO guidelines for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, side paths
constructed along roadways can cause many potential conflicts between cyclists and motorists.171
Additional items of importance to bicyclists include: distance traveled, safety considerations, and
connectivity. Trip distances up to 5 miles are most desirable. Most riders felt that safety issues were the
most important concern, with completeness/connectivity being the second-most important issue. Both
motorists and bicyclists felt that the other was the culprit of incidents involving cars and cyclists. Cyclists
indicate that motorists are ignorant of cyclists having the right-of-way at pedestrian crossings, while
motorists claim that cyclists do not display a general knowledge of the “Rules of the Road”. Cyclists are to
dismount their bike at crosswalks, thereby becoming pedestrians at intersections. At this point, cyclists have
the right-of-way because they are pedestrians; as bicyclists, they do not have the right-of-way.
The LRTP states that “building a comprehensive network of bicycle facilities is one of the most important
needs facing a developing multimodal transportation system in the Las Cruces MPO”. This is especially
important in Las Cruces and Doña Ana County given New Mexico State statutes that place restrictions on
the use of sidewalks by bicycles in business districts. Conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians sparked the
need to place restrictions on bicyclists using sidewalks. Therefore, having separate facilities for bicycle use
will prevent or reduce these conflicts.
Many areas within and outside of the LCMPO area do not possess any form of bicycling facility.172
The LCMPO will seek funding for future bicycle routes through the Transportation Improvement Program
(TIP) as well as the Capital Improvement Programs (CIP) of local governments.
During the summer of 2007, the Las Cruces MPO invited the Executive Director of the League of American
Bicyclists to give presentations to the governing boards of each LCMPO member jurisdiction (Las Cruces,
Mesilla, and Doña Ana County) on what qualifies a city or region as being bicycle-friendly and how the Las
Cruces area can reach that goal.
The LRTP further provided four ways to encourage the use of bicycles and address the need for bicycle
facilities along with encouraging the use of the facilities:
A connection between existing facilities and destinations is imperative to the
establishment of a usable bicycle route situated alongside streets;
2. Educating the public as to the correct “rules of the road” for motorists and
cyclists will help in the prevention and/or reduction of infractions that occur
between the two modes of transportation;
3. Cooperation from local and state entities with the LCMPO is necessary in
pursuing funding sources to implement new facilities; and
4. Parking facilities for bicycles are necessary at transportation destinations so
that potential bicycle users are not deterred by unavailable, unsafe, and
insecure parking areas.
An actual number or percentage was not provided in the 2005-2030 Las Cruces MPO LRTP that cited
171 2005 Transportation Plan – Las Cruces MPO, July 13, 2005 p. 19
172 2005 Transportation Plan 2005-2030, Las Cruces MPO, p. 19
In 2007, the Las Cruces MPO prepared a new pedestrian plan to expand the current pedestrian element of
the 2005 LRTP. This element of the LRTP had the least related information in the transportation plan, even
though pedestrian travel is the most vulnerable mode of transportation in the Las Cruces metropolitan
The Pedestrian Plan provided some revealing statistics:
„ 8% of U.S. households do not own a car173
30% of U.S. population does not drive174
55% of Americans want to walk more175
84% Americans want streets designed for slower traffic176
74% want their children to be able to walk to school safely177
Walking trips by children fell from 50% to 10% from 1970 to 1995178
The National Association of Realtors conducted a survey in 2007 that indicated “Americans embrace transit
and walkable communities as a solution to climate change.” In addition, lack of focus on pedestrian
planning and funding occurs despite these statistics. The drop in percentage of overall ‘school walkers’ is
disconcerting but could be increased with safer and interconnected facilities. The Pedestrian Plan further
indicates the need to plan for appropriate pedestrian facilities when planning roadway construction,
improvement, and/or expansion projects. Integrating all pedestrian elements can forego the potentially
exorbitant costs associated with future retrofitting expenses.
With assistance from the Sociology Department at NMSU, the Las Cruces MPO conducted a survey of
pedestrian issues. The team collected data about the number and frequency of walking trips, and the
amenities that are important to pedestrians. The survey determined why and where people walk to in Las
Cruces and what the degree of convenience of the city’s pedestrian facilities is. The survey showed that
pedestrians need sidewalks, as well as marked and lighted crosswalks. The dimensions of these facilities
were also important to pedestrians. The survey also identified the geographic location of the walkers and
the locations that had more walkers than others. In some areas, certain walking trips occurred more often
than others. For instance, most walkers did so for the exercise and walking to school in Central Las Cruces
was above average.179
1995 National Personal Transportation Survey
175 2003 Surface Transportation Policy Project poll by the US Department of Transportation
176 Ibid.
177 Ibid.
178 Ibid.
179 Las Cruces MPO Pedestrian Element
Figure 8-1. Walking Habits of Las Cruces Residents
Source: Las Cruces MPO Pedestrian Element
A review of studies pertaining to types of facilities that are important walking destinations was performed
by the MPO to come up with the aforementioned top three destinations where people walk to. Through a
GIS analysis, the MPO located the potentially high demand walking areas in the Las Cruces area. Each
pedestrian facility was given a buffer area of one-eighth mile, a quarter mile, and half mile. Each buffering
was given a numerical weight. The closer the walking distance to the facility, the higher the weight applied
to that area.
Locations of highest demand in Las Cruces included areas along major highway corridors and local
residential streets, including north-south and east-west streets. In concert with this priority weighting
analysis, a pedestrian crash analysis was performed. Not surprisingly, locations having the highest incident
density included some of the locations having the highest weight for most walking demand areas: Madrid,
Amador, a portion of Picacho. Major highways having medium to high numerical weight for walking
demand area correlated closely to areas having low to no pedestrian incidents: Telshor Boulevard,
Roadrunner Parkway, North Main Street.
Pedestrian Safety
New Mexico has one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the nation, driven mostly by alcoholinvolved fatalities. Approximately 55 pedestrian fatalities per
year occurred over each of the last few years. Of these,
Table 8-2. High Demand Walking
approximately two-thirds of the accidents involved alcohol and
Areas in the City of Las Cruces
almost all alcohol-involved pedestrian fatalities also involved
alcohol use by the pedestrian. Pedestrians account for 10 to 12
percent of fatalities in New Mexico, and 15 percent of alcohol•
Telshor Boulevard
North Main Street
involved fatalities. Pedestrian crashes account for approximately
Roadrunner Parkway
3 percent of serious injuries. Native Americans are heavily
overrepresented in pedestrian fatalities. Sixty percent of
pedestrian fatalities and 20 percent of pedestrian serious injuries
180 Although
during the past 5 years have involved alcohol.
overall the pedestrian fatality rate has been falling for years,
New Mexico is still in the top five states for pedestrian fatalities
per 100,000 persons.181 Legislation was passed in 1993 to further
strengthen New Mexico's DWI laws and anti-DWI environment.
The State’s goal is to achieve a 20 percent reduction in the
fatality rate, or 167 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles
Source: LCMPO Pedestrian Element
travelled (VMT) by 2010.
In 2005, the City of Las Cruces Public Works Department
implemented a comprehensive Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program (NTCP) to effectively address
neighborhood concerns about issues such as speeding, cut-through traffic and pedestrian/bicyclist safety.
The goal of the NTCP is to enhance and protect the quality of life throughout the city by making
neighborhoods safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, residents living in these neighborhoods, and the motoring
public, by altering the behavior of motorists and addressing these issues. This can be accomplished with
resident participation and the joint efforts of the Public Works Department and the Police department, via
its Neighborhood Enforcement Team (NET), using education, enforcement, and engineering solutions.
As part of their LRTP, the LCMPO developed a trail system plan (2005) that shows proposed paved and
unpaved trails within the LCMPO area. In addition to the unpaved and paved trails that are primarily
proposed in areas west of Interstate Highway 25, unpaved arroyo trails are also recommended along the
outlying areas of Las Cruces to the east, and the outlying areas of the Town of Mesilla through the ETZ
area that leads up to the Las Cruces airport. An extensive unpaved trail is proposed for an area east of
Interstate Highway 25 that would connect the end of each of the proposed arroyo trails in a north-south
fashion. The extent of the proposed unpaved trail is beyond the north and south limits of the ETZ
boundary, essentially between Radium Springs and Mesquite. Implementation of the proposed trail system
would provide a well-connected network for pedestrian transportation establishing an important and
needed element of an intermodal transportation system.
An increased focus on pedestrian walkways as part of an intermodal system is a specific item that is
addressed in the federal transportation legislation of SAFETEA-LU. By providing improvements to existing
pedestrian facilities, implementing the construction of new sidewalks and trails, and making sure the
pedestrian network is connected and integrated, an intermodal transportation system can be realized.
New Mexico Comprehensive Transportation Safety Plan, August 2006
Rail Service
Two common rail freight carriers and one passenger rail carrier serve New Mexico; a short line railroad
serves Santa Fe; and a tourist railroad, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, provides service between
Chama, New Mexico and Antonio, Colorado. The railroads companies operating in the state include:
Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Union Pacific, Amtrak, and Santa Fe Southern. Ninety percent of all freight
originating in New Mexico is hauled by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, which serves the state
via two north-south lines, one that serves the Rio Grande line, the other which serves the Pecos Valley. 182
Las Cruces is one of the 13 in New Mexico cities that are served by this railroad.
Rail freight service is provided by the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) and the Southern
Pacific Railway (SP). Daily rail service and container service is provided by both rail companies in El Paso,
Texas. Truck-rail intermodal facilities are currently being planned for future regional needs in Doña Ana
County. The location of the intermodal facility is near the Doña Ana County International Airport, along
the Union Pacific Mainline. Rail expansion will essentially consist of rail spurs to currently unserved areas
and industrial users. Two depots exist near major arterials and provide historical and transportation
connections to the entire transportation network. The Mesilla Park Depot is actively used; the Las Cruses
Depot is currently owned by the City of Las Cruces and is presently a trailhead and railroad museum, with
planned improvements to the depot site area. Improvements to the fronting roadway, Mesilla Street, have
already been performed.
Passenger service accommodated by Amtrak consists of two routes that cross the state serving six cities
including Santa Fe and Albuquerque, but not Las Cruces. Commuter rail service within Las Cruces does not
exist: the rail system has been for goods and services transport rather than passengers. A goal of the LRTP is
for the MPO to enhance railroad service within Doña Ana County to accommodate passenger and
commercial service while providing a safe, viable alternative to traditional transportation modes.
As part of the Governor of New Mexico’s GRIP program, the NMDOT is developing an Albuquerque to El
Paso Rail Passenger Demonstration Project. Regionally, Union Pacific announced a plan to build a $150
million railroad facility in Santa Teresa by 2015, which is projected to create 285 jobs and be a catalyst for
other development in the immediate area. South of the New Mexico border, a plan to build railroad tracks
from South Juarez to the Santa Teresa port of entry has recently been placed on the Mexican national
infrastructure budget. The plan calls for a 63-kilometer rail bypass and would cost about $110 million,
however so far no money has been dedicated to the project.
Air Service
Airport Service in Doña Ana County is provided through four public airports: Las Cruces International
Airport, located eight miles of downtown Las Cruces with direct access to I-10; Doña Ana County Airport,
located in Santa Teresa; the Village of Hatch, located approximately 40 miles northwest of Las Cruces and
off Interstate 25; and El Paso International Airport, located forty-five miles south of Las Cruces. El Paso
International Airport provides the closest commercial aviation service to Doña Ana County. There are also
several private airports and heliports. The Las Cruces International Airport and the Doña Ana County
Airport are National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NIPIAS) airports. The Hatch municipal airport is a
non-NIPIAS airport.
The Las Cruces Airport Master Plan was recently updated and approved by City Council in March 2008. In
addition, an Airport Overlay Zoning District is currently being reviewed by the City for adoption. The
intent of the overlay zone is to protect the newly annexed land. The update and overlay zone should
strengthen the long-term viability of the airport in terms of operational protection and noise compatibility.
Incompatible land uses should be limited in flight paths.
Since the loss of Westward Airways in 2005, there have been no enplanements. For the airport to
capitalize on FAA entitlements to fund airport capital improvements, the airport needs to promote
commercial airport service. Once the airport regains enplanements, it should strive to reach enplanements
of approximately 10,000 passengers annually to qualify for the federal entitlements.
Aviation is a strong part of the region with two quality general aviation facilities able to accommodate
small commercial jets and business aircraft. The proximity to the larger El Paso Airport and its many
commercial airlines has historically made it difficult to support commercial freight or passenger service from
local airports. With the rising fuel costs and loss of many small carriers, it is unlikely that passenger service
can be provided except in the larger metropolitan areas. Small isolated communities have been able to
secure federal assistance under the Essential Air Service program as a match to local funds to sustain some
passenger service however this program is being cut back. The City of Las Cruces Airport and the County’s
facility are focusing on serving and attracting more on site businesses and events.
The recent passage of County tax support and New Mexico State funding will enable construction of the
Regional Space Port with projected costs of over $200 million and will add a new dimension for business
and tourism in the area. Although proposed for a location in Sierra County about 75 miles north of Las
Cruces, the facility is to require a work force of 200 for construction and operation and ultimately draw
visitors from around the globe. It is projected that many of the necessary high tech positions will locate in
the Las Cruces area.
Las Cruces International Airport
The Las Cruces International Airport (also known as Crawford Field) is a thriving general aviation airport
adjacent to the West Mesa Industrial Park. The airport has three runways, including a precision instrument
approach (Runway 30). The airport is located in an area that has ample available space for expansion. A
shuttle and charter service – Las Cruces Shuttle and Charter—provides transportation service to the El Paso
International Airport, Amtrak & bus stations in the El Paso, Las Cruces, Deming, and Silver City areas.
Private Car Service is also provided 24-hours per day, 7 days a week, and Charter & Courier transportation
service is provided throughout southern New Mexico and west Texas.183
Hatch Municipal Airport
The Hatch Municipal Airport is located west of Hatch on Highway 26. Both the Hatch Municipal Airport
and the (otherwise abandoned) Stahmann Farms Airport near San Miguel serve as a base for Aerial
Application Operations (crop dusters). Other private airports and heliports are located throughout the
County and include Solo Ranch (Akela) and Cielo Dorado (Anthony) both of which serve as residential flyin communities. Both Memorial Medical Center and Mountain View Hospital maintain on site heliports for
transporting emergency and trauma victims. Condron Army Air Field, which supports Air Operations at the
White Sands Missile Range, is also located in Doña Ana County.
Doña Ana Airport at Santa Teresa
The Doña Ana Airport at Santa Teresa is experiencing phenomenal growth. The airport has an 8,500 foot
runway with instrument approach. Construction is underway for a 1,050 foot extension and a planned
crosswind runway which will eventually be 12,000 feet long. The Airport is a “landing rights airport,”
which means that aircraft are able to clear customs on flights originating in Mexico and Central America.
The airport provides flight training, air charter and air taxi service and aviation maintenance facilities and
other aviation related activities. An international cargo/freight company operates DC-3 aircraft on a regular
basis. The Doña Ana County Airport is in need of further development to efficiently accommodate the
growth in trade resulting from NAFTA. The airport is home to the world class War Eagles Aviation
Museum. 184 The museum houses the headquarters of an international aviation association. The museum
periodically sponsors aviation related events including the annual fly-in for over 100 home built aircraft.
190 website accessed February 14, 2008
Due to tax advantages, numerous corporate jets and turbine aircraft of Texas and California companies are
headquartered at this airport. Growth has exceeded Federal Aviation Administration forecasts and growth
is expected to accelerate with the construction of the new Union Pacific Railroad Yard and Multi-Modal
Transportation Facility. Other factors expected to encourage growth and expansion at the airport are the
planned development community proposed by The Verde Group and the possibility of a large Customs
and Border Protection facility on the western boundary of the airport.
Border Crossing
Border crossings exist at Santa Teresa, Columbus, and Antelope Wells. The crossing at Antelope Wells is for
non-commercial crossings only. Commercial crossings are possible in Santa Teresa, which has average
crossing wait times of 7 to 10 minutes and an average of 140 commercial crossings per day. The crossing at
Santa Teresa accommodates crossings to and from Mexico fairly well in comparison to the crossing at El
Paso, TX, which has average wait times of 2-3 hours and 800 commercial crossings daily.185
Economic Development through Transportation Planning
Governor Bill Richardson has initiated an investment program geared toward the expansion and
improvement of the State’s highways and to create an efficient and modern public transit system. Known
as “GRIP” for ‘Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership’, this program is a $1.6 billion plan that
includes 42 construction projects in every corner of the state. Those projects are projected to create 8,000
new jobs each year, and have an $8.4 billion positive impact on New Mexico's economy.186 One project
that will be funded through this program in Las Cruces is Interstate 10 – from the Texas State Line to Las
Cruces. This project involves the reconstruction of existing lanes and expansion from a four-lane to a sixlane highway to accommodate high commuter and commercial traffic from El Paso. As a major corridor for
east to west transport of goods and services, this corridor has potential for other transportation modes.
In 2003, New Mexico won the competition to host the X-Prize Cup. This is a commercial space flight
competition between aerospace engineers and designers. As a result of this, the Spaceport will be
constructed in Upham, Sierra County – located north of Las Cruces. It is anticipated that a large number of
Spaceport employees will live in Las Cruces since it is the closest and largest urban area in the region. In
addition, aerospace and construction firms that will support the Spaceport’s activities could locate in and
around Las Cruces. In addition to the X-Prize Cup, the Spaceport will be the primary operating base for
anchor tenant Virgin Galactic, as well as organizations such as UP Aerospace, Starchaser, and the Rocket
Racing League. While it is not entirely known how this may have an effect on the economy of Las Cruces,
it is probable that hosting this event could bring additional travelers to the area via the Las Cruces Airport,
consequently serving as an economic stimulus for surrounding business, along with supporting capital
improvements to the existing airport.
The LCMPO will plan for transportation needs that may occur due to the development of the Southwest
Regional Spaceport. Paving of the road that leads from I-25 to Spaceport America is one example of a
transportation need resulting from this project. Interstate Highway 10 will serve the flow of
northbound/southbound traffic from/to Las Cruces and the Spaceport. A portion of this highway has been
earmarked for improvements under the State STIP, which is a GRIP2 project.
Heart of the Southwest, March 2007
Transportation Needs, Trends, Forecasts and Funding
8.10.1 State of New Mexico
As a result of House Memorial (HM) 35, sponsored by Representative Daniel Silva and Representative
Patricia Lundstrom during the 48th Legislature of the State of New Mexico, the New Mexico State
Department of Transportation (NMDOT) was tasked with reviewing the State’s current and future
transportation needs, and to identify appropriate funding options for a sustainable transportation system
for New Mexico’s future. The premise for HM 35 is that the condition of New Mexico’s transportation
infrastructure has been deteriorating over the past 20 years and federal funding is uncertain, less than
anticipated, and places more emphasis on states to make up the difference in funding.187 Further, the
current level of funding will not sustain New Mexico’s transportation needs into the future due to a
combination of factors, not the least of which is rising construction costs and an average 34% increase in
construction cost materials over the period of 2003-2007.188 A committee of 15 members, having a diverse
transportation background, was convened to assess conditions within their respective communities along
with conducting public meetings to gain input from the public and organizations such as the American
Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
Initial information obtained from a review of the State’s highways and bridges indicated that
approximately 15 percent of state-maintained highways and 16 percent of State bridges are in poor
condition. This equates to an estimated human and economic cost of vehicle crashes of over $3 billion per
year. When nominal dollars are adjusted for inflation and the increases in driving from a growing
population (i.e. vehicle miles traveled), the total purchasing power of state transportation revenue in New
Mexico is 23 percent lower now (2007) than in 1987.189 What this essentially means is that the revenue
from the total transportation network has not kept up with inflation and the growing demand on the
transportation system. Trends and future projections indicate a decline in the purchasing power of the
State’s transportation revenues and at a time when demands on the system are increasing. New Mexico has
one of the lowest gas tax rates at 17 cents per gallon; however it does not seem to benefit the citizens of
the State since New Mexico ranks among the top 10 states with the highest gas prices: New Mexico drivers
pay the same gas prices as drivers in New York State, which has a much higher gas tax of 44 cents per
GRIP has helped immensely with increasing investment in transportation capital. This increase included
raising the special fuels tax rate, weight distance tax rates, and vehicle registration fees to construct corridor
projects designated as critical in need or necessary for safety and economic opportunity. Bonding authority
of $1.5 billion was included in GRIP and to date (2007), $698 million has been spent in addressing the
most critical highway needs. From 2006 to 2007, the NMDOT has seen a $5.3 billion decrease in its
overall 20-year highway needs projection.191
The study indicated a need for efficiencies in operations and engineering solutions and a more effective
funding portfolio to be implemented over two time frames: short term (one to four years); and long term
(five to ten years). With respect to short term, one option consists of redirecting existing revenues towards
transportation projects and construction activities. If redirecting were to occur, NMDOT would receive
approximately $169 million more annually or about $3.2 billion over 19 years (2008-2026).192
New Mexico Transportation Infrastructure Futures Task Force Final Report, November 2007
189 Ibid
191 Ibid
192 Ibid
NMDOT is very familiar with innovative financing. They were the first to pledge Federal Forest Highway
funds (PLH-FH) to a bond issue. Since 1996, NMDOT has issued over $1 billion of bonds to finance the
Citizens Highway Assessment Task Force (CHAT), GARVEE, Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), and
Highway Infrastructure Fund (HIF) projects. Several years ago, NMDOT decided to minimize the use of
state road fund revenues to pay debt service in order to preserve scarce state dollars for operations and
maintenance. 193 Declining gas tax revenues, which comprise approximately 60 percent of road fund
revenues, and a reluctance by the then- Governor to implement any tax increases put a severe strain on the
limited resources available to the state and reinforced the need for alternative revenue streams.
The use of Federal highway revenues for debt service for the new GRIP program will be continued and
was approved through a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with FHWA. The MOU permits
NMDOT to continue the use of present value methodology for calculating state match on the refunded
bonds as had previously been approved through a TE-045 project, and lays the framework for future
management of GRIP.194
8.10.2 Doña Ana County and Las Cruces
Efforts to integrate the transportation network in Doña Ana County continue, especially between the City
of Las Cruces and surrounding communities. The formation of the Las Cruces and El Paso MPOs, as well as
that of the South Central District RPO has improved coordination between local government, and between
local agencies and the NMDOT. There have been great efforts to identify the needs of each municipality in
terms of multi-modal infrastructure improvements; bridge rehabilitations; public transportation needs;
accommodation of bicyclists and pedestrians; commuter and freight rail transport; and commercial air
transport. However, forecasting transportation needs and outcomes is an evolving process because
conditions are constantly changing in the region, the state and at the borders.
National trends, such as an aging population and rapidly rising cost of gas, and widespread concerns about
climate change are expected to affect people’s transportation choices, including the types of cars to buy
and using alternative modes of transportation, such as transit or bicycles. The LCMPO indicates that the
“regional area needs to be able to support zero car households, low and moderate income populations, as
well as the influx of new residents, both retiring and relocating. Because the LCMPO area covers parts of
Doña Ana County, all of the Town of Mesilla, and the City of Las Cruces, the transportation system needs
to be looked at across the entire region both in light of the significant growth that has occurred over the
last 10 to 20 years, and the expected future growth.”
Travel Demand Forecasting
The LCMPO maintains a model to forecast and plan for travel on roads and highways. The model uses
four main steps in the simulation process: trip generation; trip distribution; mode split; and trip assignment.
It divides Doña Ana County into 328 traffic analysis zones (TAZ) and aids the LCMPO to identify future
high traffic areas. This information can then be used to evaluate alternative strategies for relieving
Areas where growth is anticipated by the year 2010 are essentially the East Mesa and High Range. The
residents of East Mesa utilize Highway 70 as the principal arterial for commuting. This highway provides
the only access from Las Cruces to White Sands Missile Range and points east. The only other road that
provides similar east-west access is Lohman Avenue. The Flood Control Dam prevents construction of eastwest roads between Lohman Avenue and US 70. The LCMPO anticipates that as development continues in
the Sonoma Ranch area and beyond, the capacity of these two arterials will be maximized. Likewise, the
LCMPO indicated that the majority of roads in the East Mesa will reach capacity by 2010, with most
concern for US-70 and Lohman Avenue. Construction of new roads and/or capacity improvements on
other roads in the East Mesa would provide relief to these roads. The LRTP and SAFETEA-LU emphasizes
New Mexico Launches Strategic Transportation Initiative, web site
accessed February 14, 2008
194 Ibid
the need for coordination of transportation improvement projects with existing land use. In efforts to
further alleviate traffic congestion, the pursuit of achieving and maintaining a balance between housing
location and job location can also alleviate congestion.
With the population of the County projected to peak at approximately 275,000 by 2030, the associated
increase in average daily vehicle miles traveled could be from 4.5 million miles (modeled current) to 7.1
million miles, County-wide. Vehicle miles traveled is a measurement of the number of miles traveled by the
population of an area as determined through actual traffic counts and by modeling the counts to predict
future total vehicle miles anticipated. The traffic model further shows that an interconnected thoroughfare
system can help mitigate this mileage increase. The LCMPO will utilize the information from the model to
prioritize improvements to the thoroughfare network.
The North Valley area is another rapidly developing area. Reasons for this development stem from the
anticipated Spaceport; the newly constructed wastewater treatment plant; and the continuing trend of
farmers to sell their land to developers. The current level of build-out in the North Valley has already
resulted in capacity concerns. Valley Drive, Doña Ana Road, and Camino Real are north-south two-lane
roads functioning as major/minor arterials. Engler Road, Taylor Road, and Thorpe Road are east-west twolane roads functioning as minor arterials. Right-of way preservation and roadway construction are top
priorities to be considered as development continues in the North Valley.
Similar concerns exist in the South Valley. While Las Cruces is served well by north-south arterials and
roadways, the presence of the Rio Grande inhibits east-west travel. There are very few existing corridors
that serve the area in this direction. This will pose issues of concern for the continued development of the
County, especially with respect to the natural progression of development further north and south toward
Radium Springs and Berino.
Future studies that will be undertaken by the LCMPO are to include consideration of the following:
„ North Bypass Loop Study Corridor
Shalem Colony Trail Study Area
Preservation of right-of-way through New Mexico State lands and the area east of the Weisner Road
In Doña Ana County, population growth will continue to occur in the region along the Rio Grande valley
between El Paso and Las Cruces. As a result, wastewater treatment plant was recently constructed between
Vado and Berino to serve an area that is currently sparsely populated with trailer homes. Radium Springs
was included in the expanded LCMPO boundaries because of the expected impacts of the future Spaceport.
Relief routes for I-10 were the focus of a recent study performed by the El Paso MPO. Three alternatives
were reviewed, one of which would accommodate the section of I-10 that serves Las Cruces. Known as the
Southern Relief Route (SRR), it is a 42-mile route along I-10 on the westerly limits of El Paso from the
Texas/New Mexico border. The main purpose of the project is to increase roadway carrying capacity;
there are two other projects that serve Texas and all three are scheduled for 2015, 2025, and 2035.
costs. This has limited the effectiveness of traffic congestion and safety measures. The Intelligent
Transportation System (ITS) Regional Architecture that was recently adopted by the LCMPO is
expected to ensure that operation and maintenance are considered when planning for future
transportation projects.
Many roads built around the turn of the century or earlier provided access to farms and ranches.
Today, many of them need repairs and improvements, but poor drainage, limited rights-of-way and
the fact that they were not built according to modern standards make this costly.
Colonias are in need of substantial road work, but many of them do not have access to resources or
funding to carry out a comprehensive program.
Uncoordinated development, noise and heavier traffic are some of the major challenges that will be
faced by unincorporated communities lacking zoning. Chaparral is of concern because of its proximity
to Fort Bliss training grounds and its heavy armament transportation corridor.
RoadRUNNER Transit surpassed its accepted minimum ridership per revenue hour from 1989 to 2003.
There still appears to be a demand for public transportation in the City and between El Paso and Las
A key challenge for the region is addressing the needs of people throughout the County who can’t
afford cars and rely on a transportation system that facilitates other forms of travel. The increasing cost
of fuel and the centralization of jobs and educational opportunities in large communities are making
multimodal transportation options attractive to local residents as well as those around the country and
the state.
Bicycle use in the Las Cruces MPO area is hampered by limited bicycling facilities. Connectivity
between urban bike lanes, recreation trails and both is poor. Design and maintenance of in-road bike
lanes are poor and create safety issues of riders and drivers.
Similarly, there are numerous areas within the City of Las Cruces that are not pedestrian-friendly, and
many rural communities in Doña Ana County that lack safe walkways or sidewalks or both. The
LCMPO indicated it needs to inventory the status of sidewalks and determine where deficiencies exist.
New Mexico has historically had high rates of alcohol-related fatal crashes. Despite the State’s attempts
to address the problem through legislation, education, and enforcement, New Mexico leads the nation
in this regard.
Several primary arterials in the LCMPO area were not designed as such, and consequently they are illsuited for current traffic loads. With increasing traffic, they will soon be reaching their maximum
capacity. Some, in fact, carry more traffic than highways. Expanding their capacity, however, is
complex due to restricted rights-of-way and the expense of acquiring buildings and property.
East-west travel in Las Cruces is highly limited. The natural topography of the area, I-25, and the Las
Cruces Flood Control Dam restrict east-west movement.
In Las Cruces, growth by the year 2010 is anticipated on the East Mesa and High Range. In Doña Ana
County, communities closest to El Paso are most likely to grow.
New Mexico has a comprehensive statewide transportation network, when combined with major
freight line carriers and non-scheduled carriers that handle local, regional, and national shipments.
Figure 8-2 Transportation