First Envision Rating for Sustainable Infrastructure in New Mexico
Aerial view of the I-25/University Avenue Interchange
The I-25/University Avenue Interchange Improvements Project is the first infrastructure project in New Mexico to be awarded an Envision Rating. This $35 million project, which began in January 2020 and finalized in October 2021, was a joint initiative between the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico State University (NMSU), and other local stakeholders.
The I-25/University Interchange serves as the main access point to several local communities and the NMSU campus, all of which have seen significant growth in recent years.
The purpose of this project was to:
— Add capacity to the I-25 southbound off-ramp at University Avenue.
— Reduce congestion, weaving, and backups onto off-ramps.
— Incorporate roundabouts to improve traffic flow.
— Encourage multi-modal transportation options for cyclists and pedestrians.
COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABLE INFRASTRUCTURE
Since its inception, sustainability has been a core focus of this project. Sustainability goals, including this project’s pursuit of Envision verification, have been communicated to project and community stakeholders throughout its design and delivery phases. Ultimately, the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s independent, third-party project verification process awarded the project an Envision Silver rating. The rating recognizes the project’s wide-ranging sustainability achievements in improving overall community quality of life, demonstrating leadership in sustainability, using resources efficiently, protecting the environment, and improving climate resilience.
KEY SUSTAINABILITY ACHIEVEMENTS
Putting safety first during every phase of the project. Worker and community safety measures were prioritized during construction, while disruptions to the travelling public were minimized through careful and thoughtful construction phasing, enabling lanes in both directions to remain open during the construction period.
In addition, this project measurably improves user safety. Prior to this project, the I-25 on/off ramp had one of the highest crash rates in the University Avenue corridor. Significant measures were put in place to improve driver and pedestrian safety, including:
— Eliminating the common traffic backups on the southbound I-25 off-ramp onto the interstate by adding a new off-ramp connection to the NMSU campus. This new off-ramp also serves to reduce the overall congestion on University Avenue.
— Installing roundabouts to improve traffic flow, which are also proven to reduce injuries and fatal crashes.
— Adding new sidewalks, multiuse paths, connections to existing trails and paths, and providing buffered bike lanes to help create a greater level of comfort and safety for non-motorized traffic.
Creating connections. Pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the project’s design provide a critical link to existing multi-modal transportation infrastructure in the community and enhance connectivity between public space and amenities. Where I-25 and University Avenue were once community barriers (physical and mental), these corridors now link the various communities within Las Cruces with New Mexico State University.
Stimulating growth and development. This project created more than 250 direct and 159 indirect jobs. This project has also created better access to local businesses and recreational amenities for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, which is expected to drive economic activity.
Improving energy efficiency. While high-pressure sodium lights are still commonly used for street lighting throughout the state and in many other places, they are far less energy efficient than LED lighting. To improve energy efficiency in this corridor, this project specifically chose to use LED lighting, resulting in an overall energy savings of about 45% compared to industry norms.
Reflecting local character in the project design. Infrastructure such as bridges and retaining walls provides the perfect canvas to showcase local artists, and such works of public art are a great way to express local community values and character, provide a sense of place, and engage local artists and the community at large in the design and selection process. Furthermore, this reinforces the project’s role as a gateway to the various communities within Las Cruces, including NMSU.
Sherri Holliefield, PE, NMDOT South Region Design Manager:
The NMDOT’s 2040 Long Range Plan highlighted mobility and sustainability as key goals for future project development. However, we had no tool to measure sustainable design or construction practices. We were introduced to Envision by our consultant and determined that we would utilize this tool to see how the process unfolded and if it would in fact deliver a more sustainable project. Every goal we set were met or exceeded in that regard.
Jerry Paz, PE, ENV SP, Team Leader:
Molzen Corbin has a history of sustainable design on LEED vertical design projects, but our horizontal infrastructure engineering team needed a method to track sustainable design for roadway and utility projects. Envision has set the standard for horizontal design and construction practices and assisted our team greatly in advancing our sustainable design practice.
PROJECT DETAILS AT-A-GLANCE
Envision-Verified Project: I-25 University Avenue Interchange Improvements Project
Location: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Lead Envision Firm: Molzen Corbin
Envision Rating: Silver
Award Date: March 24, 2022
Project Owner: New Mexico Department of Transportation
Project Partners: Molzen Corbin (Lead Engineering Firm), Bohannan-Huston (Structural and Signals), Wood Group (Geotechnical Engineer), Ecosphere (Environmental), EcoResources (Traffic), La Calerita Construction, LLC (Construction).
Project Phase: Operational
Project Delivery Method: Design-Bid-Build
For More Information: Project website
Additional project photos: