NMDOT property overtaken by weed

BELEN, NM – A major bridge and railroad project in Belen has been underway for years. While crews have yet to begin, the New Mexico Department of Transportation has already acquired several properties near the BNSF railroad.

Some residents say the lack of property maintenance is becoming a problem.

“They can’t do it soon enough, as far as I’m concerned,” Belen local Steve Ferguson said.

According to NMDOT, the $14.5 million project, in partnership with BNSF, will replace the NM 109 crossing and tracks at the east end of BNSF Yard in Belen. It will also add eight additional sets of tracks. Transportation officials told KOB 4 that an increase in traffic inspired the changes. They specifically hope this will help free up the roads for first responders.

“There were several times when trains blocked the tracks, and I know there were a few fatalities because emergency vehicles couldn’t get through,” Ferguson said.

Although he welcomes the progress, Ferguson said he hasn’t seen any. NMDOT said it plans to demolish the homes it acquired about two years ago in November. The actual project won’t start until next summer.

“I’m upset that they haven’t done anything to mitigate the weeds on these properties,” Ferguson said. “Right now behind me is the first house that needs to go, but if you can see the weed condition here, you can barely see the houses.”

Some weeds grow up to 10 feet.

“How would you like to be next to those houses with the weeds covered up to the roof?” said Ferguson.

He thinks the weeds are so tall now that they are also contributing to crime in the area.

“It’s terrible, I mean, you know, it was a nice little stretch of road here,” he said. “All these houses from this one, up the road to Trujillo, have all been broken into – they’ve had copper and stuff stolen from them.”

The NMDOT said it had already informed its property management section of the weeds. Transportation officials encourage residents to contact the NMDOT website or call the district office at 505-934-0354, if issues persist.