Public Works Looks At Alternative Ways To Improve Roads In Los Alamos County

Public Works Director
Los Alamos County

I wanted to reach out to the community to share information about an issue that we have been working on.  If you were not aware, recently Los Alamos County has had a hard time getting bids on our roadway projects. Upon looking into the reasons why, we found several. 

Los Alamos County is isolated, which makes it a challenge for contractors to move in equipment and crews. Contractors are also experiencing labor shortages. This issue is compounded when they must send their crews away for the week to Los Alamos. Also, the County’s projects tend to be on a smaller scale, which are not as enticing to potential bidders as state or other municipalities with larger projects. For these reasons, we have had some unspent roadway maintenance funds.  

In discussions with the Transportation Board and Public Works staff, we strategized several ideas that could alleviate these issues. Staff recently put together a project that we felt could be attractive to potential bidders. First, we wanted a project that could be minimally complicated. Second, we wanted a project that would benefit as many residents as possible, i.e., a collector road. Lastly, we are trying to improve our overall pavement condition score, which I will get into more detail later.

The project selected would include San Ildefonso Road, continuing to Barranca Road up to Navajo Rd., on Barranca Mesa. This long stretch of road makes it attractive for bidders as they can remove the existing surface and quickly follow with new asphalt in long, uninterrupted stretches. This allows the work to progress very quickly, which benefits everyone as it is less disruptive. This project is free from utilities and concrete replacement, so the crews can just focus on paving. If the budget allows, additional work on North Mesa will be evaluated. We also wanted to work within the contractor’s schedule and allow flexibility. This is different than our recent projects, where we stipulated the start and end dates.

Staff is happy to announce these efforts paid off, as we received five bids for this project. The award of this contract is set to go before the County Council on May 23rd. Once the contract is finalized, we will meet with the contractor to discuss when they may be able to start. We will share this information with the public, well in advance of the start of construction. We have already been in conversations with the Los Alamos Public Schools and will work together to limit disruptions to parents and staff during their summer activities. 

Historically, our prioritization of the County’s Road improvement program has used a data driven approach, centered around a rating system called the Pavement Condition Index (PCI). PCI rates pavement condition on a scale of 0 to 100 with 100 being the best pavement condition. PCI data is collected periodically and is determined using several condition measures. The full PCI report can be found here. Each year we try to balance the needs of our residents in White Rock and Los Alamos. I am also pleased to announce that we will be doing a pavement preservation project in White Rock later this summer. We will provide more information on that project as it comes together. 

Hopefully this information has been helpful and as always if you have any questions, please free to contact Public Works at or join us for a Transportation Board Meeting on the first Thursday evening of every month. Meetings are held in Council Chambers and streamed live on Zoom. Public comment and participation are always welcome. Thank you for your time. 

Juan Rael is the Los Alamos County Public Works Director and oversees multiple County divisions including roadway engineering and maintenance.