AZTEC — Construction on a bridge that will span the Animas River and allow a straight shot from historic downtown Aztec to the Aztec Ruins National Monument will soon begin.

But first Aztec City Commissioners will have to approve final details at a regularly scheduled commission meeting on Tuesday.

The agenda includes a memorandum of understanding between the city and the national monument next door and identifies roles and obligations for both.

Terms listed include the city deferring to archeologists over any underground digging in culturally sensitive areas that may contain cultural artifacts and the park clearly marking staging and work areas. Key officials designated in the agreement are Park Service Superintendent Larry Turk and City Manager Joshua Ray.

Commissioners will also be asked to approve administrative expenses totalling more than $80,000 to provide construction oversight, administration, materials testing and observation services to HDR Engineering, the Albuquerque firm selected in 2010 to be project engineer.

Construction of the bridge will rely on the commission also approving a bid for almost $1.5 million to RMCI for construction costs. If commissioners authorize the bid award, they will have to wait for final approval by the state's transportation department. That move comes after a bidding controversy erupted this fall when the second-lowest bidder, RMCI, filed a protest over the lowest bidder, Meridian Contracting. The dispute centered on Meridian's "qualifications to perform the drilled shaft portion of the project since they did not list a subcontractor for the specialized work," according to the city's staff summary report.

Design work for the adjoining plaza and pedestrian trail corridor will be the subject of public meetings on Nov. 21.

The Durango, Colo., firm, DHM Design, is overseeing the North Main Avenue corridor design. The firm will present new features to the trail project and take more input from the public at a meeting at 4 p.m. at the Aztec Senior-Community Center, 101 S. Park Ave. The presentation will be repeated at 6 p.m.

The firm's first meeting was in August.

"We are definitely taking input at the second meeting," said Craig Stoffel, lead designer at the firm. "We gathered a lot of input on the types of uses people would like, including bicycle and pedestrian-friendly elements. Stone features and planting and other materials that echo the Aztec Ruins will be included and pull it all over into Main Street."

Stoffel said design features will visually echo the Aztec Ruins, with sandstone as one of the primary materials used.

"After this next public meeting, we hope to leave with a strong feeling of what that final design will be," he said. "Soon after, we should present our final designs to the city. There was some good, strong consensus before. People were really excited about it. We got some really great, clear direction from the people."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.