"It appears to be a matter of politics versus public safety.
The improvements to U.S. 491 might not be completed if officials from the Navajo Nation and the New Mexico Department of Transportation can't reach an agreement regarding a construction tax and rights of way the Nation is demanding.
Gov. Bill Richardson appropriated $125 million in 2003 to improve the highway, which has been deemed the most dangerous road on the Nation. Improvements would be made between the Red Valley turnoff and Twin Lakes but, if an agreement can't be reached, that money can, and likely will be, allocated for improvements to other roads in the state.
Navajo Nation officials want to impose a 4-percent tax on initial construction and ongoing maintenance of the project. In addition, they want freedom to excavate on the right of way it ceded to the state, which provided a one-time, $50,000 payment for rights to the easement for a limited time. Department of Transportation officials, however, think the money they've offered to the Nation is adequate.
It is time Navajo Nation and Department of Transportation officials take off the boxing gloves, leave their political egos at the office, and sit down to hammer out the final details of the project. Accidents and deaths caused by speed, a poorly constructed highway and alcohol aren't being put on hold until the battle of who gets what and when they get it is won.
Public safety should be the priority here. Creating a highway that encourages travel and makes that travel safer should be uppermost in the minds of all those involved in the project. "
Get the Story:
Editorial: Put politics aside — and let U.S. 491 project begin
(The Farmington Daily Times 10/14)
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org