UPPER FRUITLAND — An already precarious intersection on New Mexico Highway 371 may become more dangerous.

The intersection is about to become part of the route from Farmington to Northern Edge Navajo Casino, which opens Jan. 16.

San Juan County Commissioner Tony Atkinson questioned during Tuesday's Commission meeting why there was yet to be a study into how casino traffic will affect the intersection at N.M. 371 and Navajo Route 36.

"There's been no impact analysis," Atkinson said. "They're talking about 300-400 employees alone (at the casino). And they are going to be using that intersection."

The casino, which is near a San Juan County-Navajo Nation border, is about two miles west of Highway 371. The New Mexico Department of Transportation maintains Highway 371 and the Navajo Nation maintains Navajo Route 36.

The Nation built a stoplight at the entrance to the casino on Navajo Route 36. There have been no changes to the T-intersection onto Highway 371.

Farmington residents will take Highway 371 to and from the casino. It is also the primary route for workers and trucks going to and from Navajo Agricultural Products Industry and the Raytheon manufacturing plant.

There is a stop sign on Navajo Route 36 for cars turning onto Highway 371, which has a speed limit of 45 miles per hour through the intersection.

Atkinson said he regularly drives Highway 371 on his way to Albuquerque. He has long been concerned with the safety at the intersection during heavy traffic.


"It's an intersection I have watched since its inception ... I've seen several accidents there just in my travels," Atkinson said. "And it is not getting any less traveled."

The Navajo Nation transportation department also recognized a potential problem on Highway 371 once the casino opens, said Larry Joe, a senior traffic planner for the Navajo Nation Department of Transportation.

"The people coming down from NAPI are zooming and I'm afraid there's going to be an accident," he said.

Joe said he will apply this week to the state transportation department for a safety improvement evaluation. The evaluation would call for a study into traffic safety at the intersection and needed improvements. Joe said the process could take a year or longer.

"We may have to have the state (transportation department), the Navajo Nation and the casino sit down and start (taking) immediate safety measures," Joe said.

The location of the intersection also raises questions about jurisdiction. A small stretch of Navajo Route 36 near Highway 371 is not within the reservation.

Reached Wednesday, Rosanne Ruiz-Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the state transportation department, was not able to answer if the department has plans to study or make improvements to the intersection.

"My concern is that it's going to be a very hazardous situation until something is done to improve the traffic-handling ability of that intersection," Atkinson said. "The Navajo Nation is the one who is building the casino and creating the impact. I think they should step up and do something about the safety there."