Bullock Avenue leading into the New Mexico Tech campus becomes a virtual obstacle course for drivers as work continues on a beautification project on the normally busy street.
John Larson | El Defensor Chieftain photos

The City of Socorro is continuing to work on various street construction projects as they are tied directly with the wastewater collection line project.

All of our streets are going to be torn up because of this $25 million sewer project,” Mayor Ravi Bhasker said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project. The public has to understand that this is going to happen.”

The project includes putting in new pipes which will increase the base rate by $4 each year for four years for everyone in the city. The base rate had to be increased in order to secure money for the project, which is 25 percent grant money and 75 percent loan.

“The sewer project came about because over the past five years, we’ve had multiple collapses of the sewer,” Bhasker said. “In some places, there’s just an impression, there’s not even a pipe in there.” The pipes around the city, which are over 50-year-old clay and cement pipes, have collapsed near Blake’s Lotaburger and near O’Reilly Auto Parts. All of the pipes around the city will be replaced with plastic pipes.

When Dennis Engineering and New Mexico Underground started the wastewater collection line project, benzene
contamination was discovered in the groundwater. The contamination is due to gas tanks leaking underground.

Drivers maneuver the maze of lane changes and traffic cones on California Street as workers continue to upgrade Socorro’s
sewer system.

“Chevron, there on the north end of town, they have had a well for a good 20 years that has been pumping water and cleaning the gasoline out of it and dumping it into our sewer,” Bhasker said. “That is a small amount of water, but the environmental department had like four different monitoring wells — it’s like a police officer sitting on a corner of the street watching car accidents and not doing anything about it.”

Bhasker said that until the contamination is dealt with, the sewer project is halted which puts Bullock Avenue behind schedule.

“Bullock just happens to be one of the streets that the sewer is going into and is cutting a 12-foot wide swath down the middle of it from California to Leroy,” Bhasker said.

The City of Socorro was told by the New Mexico Department of Transportation, who helped finance the project, that the project is to be completed by June. Due to the groundwater contamination, the city will have to ask for an extension on the project into July or August.

Besides the sewer, Bullock Ave. will be landscaped and will have sidewalks and LED lights. The
$4 million project is similar to what was done on School of Mines Road.

“We had thought just like how School of Mines goes to Tech from the Plaza, we thought Bullock would be a nice boulevard street to put between California and Leroy going to Tech,” Bhasker said. “It would be a nice landscaped street.”

The construction on California Street is also facing challenges due to groundwater.

“Right now, we can’t cross California Street because the sewer is about 20 feet deep and at 20 feet, we have water,” Bhasker said. “You can’t put a sewer pipe in with groundwater. They put these pumps in, four of them, to get the groundwater out for a month.”

Bullock Avenue will just south of Lopezville Road

Bhasker said the pumps are in, but is has not been pumped.

“Have you ever had a leak in your backyard and you start digging and the water just keeps coming into the hole and you can’t find where the leak is so you have to pump that water out and see if you can see it — the same thing down here,” Bhasker said. “They have to get it dry and then they can put tha
and it will stop and water will fill back up again. The groundwater at California Street is about 20 feet.”

Bhasker said no work can be done on the sewer until the spot where it is leaking from is found.

According to Utilities Director Lloyd Martinez, the construction crews had to lower all of the main water lines on California Street.

“They are almost done,” he said. “That should be opened up (and) that area won’t be touched any more.”

Bhasker said that Highway 60 “will hopefully” get a $2.5 million project for a left-hand turn lane for the high school and the hospital and another entrance for the Socorro Rodeo and Sports Complex. The City of Socorro is also doing street construction at Western Hills.

“We applied to work on West Spring Street, on the other side of Highway 60, we asked the state to move that money to the Western Hills project because they incrementally fund these projects so you can do very little every year or you can ask them to combine it into one project,” City Treasurer Donald Monette said.

“We asked them to move $40,000 from Spring Street to Western Hills to do a better project. Once we are done with that and Bullock, we will go back to Spring Street and ask for money to head west.”

According to Bhasker, there were repaving projects 30 years ago, but nothing has been done since.

“President Biden puts in an infrastructure project and the state will get some money,” he said. “The state has already given out a bunch of money for roads and highways from the highway department, but maybe they will do more… because College needs to be done. There are lots of other roads that if we can get some funds to do, we will do.”

Another $2.5 million project the city is looking at doing is repairing the bridge by the EMRTC Bypass by Escondida because trucks over 10 tons cannot travel over the bridge.

“They are necessary projects,” Bhasker said. “We have to get them done Tech can’t grow. We can’t get any businesses in town if we don’t have a good sewer system.”