March 2, 2018
The most important road in the New Mexico side of the Permian Basin is also one of the basin’s most dangerous.
Highway 285 links Carlsbad and Eddy County, along with points to the extreme northwestern Permian Basin with Texas and the Wolfcamp area, as well as I-20 and I-10 on the Texas side.
Its also one of the busiest roads in New Mexico for hauling oil and gas, sand and water — it’s importance has grown quickly with the Permian revival of the past year or two.
But 285 is a two-lane and much of the way there’s almost no shoulder.
Eddy County Sheriff Mark Cage says its a big problem.
He says his office was called to 115 vehicle accidents last year, 57 of them resulting in injuries — and there were seven deaths.
And Cage has said he’s reluctant to send deputies to Highway 285 because of the danger.
“It’s sending them into harm’s way, literally, because to stop a vehicle out there, it’s almost impossible to find a safe place to do it,” Cage said late last month.
That’s why regular patrols of the highway will not make it any safer, yet the lack of patrols make some truckers feel that speeding is allowed.
“It’s the highway of death,” truck driver Robert Moore told Albuquerque TV station KOB.
There are thousands of trucks making the route every week, often at night, and every few days there’s an accident.
Another truck driver called it “hell” getting around on 285.
“We don’t have shoulders. We don’t have passing lanes. We don’t have acceleration and deceleration lanes,” New Mexico state Representative Cathrynn Brown told KOB; the road needs to be expanded and truckers say a four-lane should be the minimum.
Sheriff Cage said Highway 285 pours income into the state via oil and gas taxes, but New Mexico isn’t allotting cash for road improvements that are badly needed.