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A map is placed on a table, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, of the Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization boundaries. (Photo: Hannah Grover/The Daily Times)

AZTEC — A roadmap for transportation planning in San Juan County over the next 20-plus years looks at the changing conditions in San Juan County, including population and economic changes, and how those changes could impact transportation needs.

The Farmington Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee unanimously approved adopting the metropolitan transportation plan when it met on Sept. 24. The plan can be viewed online at fmtn.org.

The Farmington MPO consists of representatives from the four municipalities as well as the county and the state. It is tasked with collaboratively planning transportation projects in the area.

“Having an MTP is crucial in ensuring that federal and state transportation dollars continue to flow into the Farmington region,” said Joseph Moriarty, who serves as a planning liaison to the Farmington MPO for the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Prior to the vote, Aaron Sussman, a senior planner with the contracted firm Bohannon Houston, presented the final draft of the 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Sussman said the public comments on the draft version led to additional content being included in the final version that the MPO adopted.

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A section of La Plata Highway is pictured, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 near the Pinon Hills Boulevard intersection in Farmington. (Photo: Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Sussman said commenters emphasized the need for regional coordination both with southwest Colorado and neighboring Native American tribes. Sussman also said the public input included a desire for increased access to public transportation.

Another change Sussman highlighted in the final version of the plan is a new subsection detailing the transportation needs of an aging population.

The plan anticipates that the share of the population that is 65 years old or older will increase by 7% between now and 2045. That could lead to increased need for safe modes of transportation such as on-call public transit or ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. The plan also says the age demographics should be taken into account while establishing traffic signaling timing phases and pedestrian crossing times.

One of the noticeable changes in the 2045 plan that was not in the 2040 plan is the section on climate change. This section looks at measures to adapt to a changing climate as well as ways to mitigate emissions from the transportation sector.

Looking to the future, the plan notes that a focus on recreational tourism will mean a need to increase access to trails and amenities.

It also states that COVID-19 could be the catalyst that accelerates the shift to telecommuting, which could change traffic patterns including peak travel times.

Meanwhile, the increase of electric vehicles as well as autonomous vehicles could change transportation needs. More electric vehicles will mean a need for more charging stations, but it will also signal a decrease in gas tax revenue. This could create funding challenges in the future.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at [email protected]

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