Residents, business owners discuss overpass closure

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo The Hull Street overpass has been closed indefinitely.

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Nancy Rogers, who owns the Clovis Livestock Auction with her husband, said the Hull Street overpass is the main road to her business and its closure will affect business.

She said the auction draws buyers and sellers from all over the country, and the closure of the overpass would force clients to find another way to get to their building on the south end of the overpass.

She said about 2,000 to 3,000 head of cattle will change hands at Clovis Livestock’s next auction.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” she said.

Rogers was among the 56 people who attended a town hall meeting Tuesday regarding the overpass, which was shut down July 31 for safety reasons. Residents and business owners affected by the closure asked city officials to increase the number of signs advising drivers of the road’s closure.

Residents also asked BNSF Railway representatives to help alleviate congestion on the crossing on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Residents said the trains block the crossing up to 25 minutes.

“We’re going to have to start keeping it open as much as possible,” said Ricky Smith, superintendent of the BNSF Railway terminal in Clovis.

Another concern was being forced to take a longer, alternative route in light of record high gas prices.

City officials closed the overpass indefinitely following the recommendation after a state engineer said it was not safe for vehicles. About 4,300 vehicles travel over the bridge daily, according to city officials.

Clovis City Mayor Gayla Brumfield told Clovis residents and business owners at the meeting that reopening the 46-year-old overpass is a top priority.

City officials have estimated repairing the overpass to cost about $4.5 million and rebuilding it to cost between $8 million to $10 million.

City Manager Joe Thomas, who mediated the meeting, said the city is looking for possible sources of funds for the project. He said an engineering study is needed before the city can put a price tag on the project.

He said it’s too early to determine when the study could begin or how long it would take. He said the city engineer started a preliminary study when the overpass closed.

Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa, told the audience he would arrange a meeting between a Clovis delegation and Gov. Bill Richardson to place the overpass project in the agenda for an Aug. 15 special legislative session.

Among the topics on the agenda is how best to use an expected $400 million windfall from oil and gas taxes.

Campos encouraged as many people to join the delegation.

“In my experience, when he sees the faces and hears the stories, he’ll take it to heart,” he said referring Richardson.

A petition is circulating through the city to ask Richardson to consider the overpass a priority during the special session.

Businesses with copies of the petition include One Stop Feed, Red Rock Oil Co., Sun Belt Dairy, Clovis Livestock and Mesa Feed.