AZTEC — Construction at Light Plant Road and Aztec Boulevard has snarled traffic in Aztec for much of the fall, but officials expect the intersection to see some activity in early January.

The state transportation project, which was scheduled to begin last summer, got a late start when a supplier for the new signal mast arms was back-ordered by six weeks. Work crews discovered unmapped underground utilities, which also delayed construction.

The $1.3 million road work was scheduled to be completed by late November or early December. Instead, officials now say the project should be finished by midsummer.

"This is one complicated intersection," said Paul Brasher, engineer for the New Mexico Department of Transportation's District 5 office. "Only one other project I've been involved with had this degree of complication, which was an intersection in Albuquerque that had all these elements, plus a buried railroad line."

The state will shoot to finish the winter work on the intersection in January.

The remainder of the work will be completed after school lets out in the summer. Concerns over major road work on a busy school bus route made it necessary to wait until school is out for the summer, Brasher said.

"That's the best idea I've heard out of that project," said Aztec Public Works Superintendent Sean Ostrander. "Waiting until the kids are out of school would be an extremely smart move."

Ostrander will oversee city work alongside the state-contracted workers next summer to replace 300 feet of water line that runs along the west side of North Light Plant Road.

Work replacing two antiquated acequia junction boxes the size of refrigerators on the intersection's southern corners that connect an underground irrigation line will be the first order of business in the new year, Brasher said.

"The (acequia and junction boxes) are a muddy mess," Brasher said. "We'll replace them with 21st century versions of the acequia with new valves."

The cold weather work means that some barricading of eastbound lanes will be necessary for most of January, Brasher said.

State workers will return in the summer to tear up the intersection again to regrade and reconnect storm sewer line, install new drop inlets or catch basins, and enlarge curbs and gutters to provide an easier turning radius for traffic.

All four corners will have wheelchair ramps and fresh striping for lanes and crosswalks, Brasher said.

"Many of the surprises under the road wreaked havoc on our schedule, but we were able to make do with what we had and be pretty successful despite it," Brasher said. "When it's done, the intersection will be much improved."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4631 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.