AZTEC — Efforts to build a road to relieve Aztec's Main Avenue of heavy truck traffic are inching along.

On Tuesday, Aztec City Commissioners unanimously — albeit reluctantly — approved spending $22,000 to fund design plans for an extension of Legion Road to meet federal and state funding requirements. The 28-foot-wide gravel road extension would satisfy funding requirements to move along completion of Phase 1B — the fifth stage — of the arterial route.

Huitt-Zollars Inc., a firm in Rio Rancho, was awarded the contract to provide the city with a design base map for $3,500, a drainage report for $2,500, construction documents for $14,000 and bid phase services for $2,000.

But that price tag — and the requirement that it be spent — was a bitter pill for the city to swallow.

Commissioner Sheri Sipe echoed the city's frustration over having to spend money on a stretch of road that has no direct relationship to the 10-year-old project, aside from the fact that, once extended, it will intersect with the bypass route.

The Federal Highway Administration and state Department of Transportation have jointly required that the city create an intersecting road along the arterial route to qualify for funding. The requirement is rooted in a federal requirement that road projects connect to an existing road to be approved.

Last fall, Aztec Projects Manager Ed Kotyk was alerted by the state's transportation department that the city would not be able to count on grant funding without the intersecting road. The city could not foot the $9 million bill for the entire arterial route in one payment and instead had to approach the route piecemeal to make paying for required studies, designs and construction possible.

Sipe held up the vote on spending the money to make a point that the city had not budgeted the money for roads other than the route itself.

"So where's the money to construct (the extension of Legion Road) going to come from?" Sipe asked.

City Manager Joshua Ray matched Sipe's incredulity with his response.

"We didn't foresee this," Ray said. "We hope that zero dollars come from budget to fund this. If we do not receive the money (through outside funding sources), we'll have to fund it through money that we have."

The approved expense will come out of the city's general fund contingency budget, unless outside help from the governor's office through an appropriation or another funding source is secured.

For Legion Road to meet the planned arterial route, the road that primarily provides access to the Aztec Speedway will require an added 2,300 feet, or about $9.60 for each added foot of roadway.

The city's willingness to undertake the expense of building a gravel road to meet a federal requirement was only to continue moving closer to the arterial route's construction.

"We don't have any money earmarked for this pointless road," Ray said. "Hopefully, if we receive full funding we won't have to."

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