LOS LUNAS, N.M. (KRQE) — Crews are trying to assess the sinkhole which opened up on the approach to Main Street bridge in Los Lunas Saturday. On Monday, the fairly new bridge is down to one lane in each direction.
The sinkhole actually took out a chunk of the sidewalk, sending it down into the culvert below it. A spokesperson for the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) said it was actually two people using the sidewalk who had the misfortune of discovering it.
“On Saturday, there was a bicyclist with his son, and he actually fell into the hole in this sidewalk, and a passerby heard him calling for help and thankfully, was able to help get him out with the help of the fire department,” explained Kimberly Gallegos, public information officer for NMDOT District 3. Gallegos said the two are okay, but the same can’t be said for what remains of the sidewalk.
“The bridge is structurally okay; it’s actually not ’till way up there that you can actually even see the bridge, but this is the road approaching the bridge, and these are the culverts that are parallel to the Rio Grande River,” Gallegos said, “The water levels have been so high that water made it through and actually just ate through this soil and eroded the roadway and underneath.”
Gallegos stated crews drilled through the road at the center line to make sure no water had undermined the eastbound lanes, so they could keep at least one lane flowing in each direction.
“The only other way around it is Isleta or Belen, and we realize the frustration and how hard that has to be for people, especially emergency personnel as well,” Gallegos said.
The $18 million bridge was just completed in 2021 and included portions of the sidewalk leading up to it.
It begs the question: why wasn’t this foreseen when the project was being planned?
Gallegoes elaborated, “We have culverts for the overflow or any kind of water so that this doesn’t happen, but because the water flow was so high, it’s only able to withstand so much. It’s one of our more current bridges that we’ve made, so when I actually heard that the bridge collapsed, I was like, ‘How?'”
“This was an eye-opener for us. We’re going to continue to check our structures and just make sure that nothing like this happens again, but we are working together with this community, with all the locals and just making sure we do what’s best to get this road open safely as soon as possible,” she said.
NMDOT said they had to shut the water off to parts of Los Lunas for a few hours Sunday because of the infrastructure under the bridge which includes a sewer line. It has since been restored.
NMDOT also stated schools in Los Lunas were on remote learning Monday because of the lane closures on the bridge.
Gallegos claimed it may be a while before the lanes are back open: “They’re actually putting their heads together [Monday] to see what would be the best route to take, like do we approach the utilities first and then go into the roadwork repair? So, they’re all just kind of figuring out how we’re going to lay this out. It is going to take some time to repair this. It’s kind of like working from under the road back up because you can see the road looks okay from here, but there’s water underneath there so definitely not safe for motorists.”