AZTEC — On Tuesday, Aztec commissioners approved funding to design a trail and a construction contract for a pedestrian bridge spanning the Animas River that will link downtown Aztec with the Aztec Ruins National Monument.

A design for the 780 feet of the city's portion of the trail that begins near where the Hampton Arroyo washes into the Animas and northward alongside Martinez Lane to the south end of the proposed bridge is budgeted at $14,631.

Design costs for the Aztec Ruins portion are budgeted at $6,307. That stretch of 1,150 feet starts at the Earl H. Morris Visitor's Center at the park and winds south to Ruins Road terminating at the north end of the bridge.

The city will deliver a basic trail package, including dimensions and cross sections to the park next week. Both the city and the park are able to proceed forward with the trails project as a result of a $424,828 grant provided through the Federal Transit Administration's Paul S. Sarbanes "Transit in Parks" program.

The city will pay for a crossing with striping, alert signs and solar-powered flashing crosswalk lights along Ruins Road where the trail bisects the roadway.

Originally the Ruins trail was a single project, but last month city officials learned that the proposed trail project would have to be split into two parts because the city could not legally act as a fiscal agent for the national monument nor be reimbursed for project costs because the park is subject to federal laws that prohibit such an arrangement. By paying the more than $20,000 for the design of the entire trail, tip to tip, construction of the city's portion will not require Federal Highway Administration or state transportation department oversight.

The trail will be simple and bare-bones, using a trail bed material that will be affordable and offer a rustic look, said city Projects Manager Ed Kotyk.

"We're going to use a binding agent with local crusher fines to pave the trail," Kotyk said. "It has a hardness between concrete and pavement with the look and feel of concrete without the expense of concrete. It also requires less maintenance."

For now, lights, signs, seating or other common amenities along the trail will have to wait, he said.

"It's just a walking trail for now, but somewhere down the road we may look at putting cultural signage, an information kiosk or a bathroom. Right now, it just gets us where we want to go."

The bridge project, delayed by a recent bidding dispute between two contractors -- Meridian Contracting and RMCI Inc. -- resulted in the city losing six weeks of potential construction time while the original low bidder, Meridian, was rejected for the runner-up because of its inability to perform boring work for the bridge's pylons. RMCI Inc. is now the contractor for the bridge's construction, which is likely to begin in January and be completed, weather permitting, by April or May of next year.

"It's getting there," Kotyk said. "It will be nice to see some dirt getting moved."

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