Mountainous Infrastructure Project Takes Shape

Design-Build In New Mexico
May 2011, Vol. 66 No. 5

Even on the flattest terrain, infrastructure development projects present challenges. But put crews to work on an installation high in the Rocky Mountains, and the degree of difficulty increases with every 1,000 feet above sea level they climb. On these alpine jobsites, rock, weather and environmentally-protected boundaries rule the day, turning plans -- sometimes literally -- upside down.

Working in high elevations is nothing new for Albuquerque, NM-based AUI Inc., the general contractor selected by the Angel Fire (NM) Public Improvement District (PID) to lead a $24 million infrastructure development project in the Rocky Mountain community. So when the contractor stared down the tough challenges presented by the Angel Fire project, they were prepared.

The village of Angel Fire, NM, is the largest incorporated mountain community in the state and counts roughly 1,000 permanent residents. According to the village’s website, Angel Fire is the fastest-growing community in northeastern New Mexico. It sits at an elevation of 8,415 feet and is less than 30 square miles wide. Santa Fe is roughly 70 miles to the southwest, and Albuquerque is situated 130 miles in the same direction.

Design-build at 8000 feet
Home to nearly 850 lots, the Angel Fire PID project will one day be filled with condos and chalets, boutiques and shops catering to the area’s four-season tourists who come to ski, shop, bike, golf and relax with their families. Called by the village’s mayor “the largest construction project this valley has ever seen,” the plan was to bring needed infrastructure to property owners who have been waiting -- some for as long as three decades -- for the development.

The years-long project has been managed by the PID, an entity made up of officials elected by Angel Fire property owners.

The project was classified design-build, an area of expertise for AUI. “When a contractor and an engineer can come together to provide complete services, it alleviates many of the issues that arise on a traditional bid-build project,” said Marshall Vickers, AUI project manager in charge of the Angel Fire job.

AUI began work on the project -- the scope of which included road work, water/sewer system and underground utilities installation -- in August 2009 with a plan to complete all work within two construction seasons. Extreme winters require that AUI demobilize its equipment and secure work areas when snowfall levels make construction no longer possible. The area -- which is home to the renowned Angel Fire Resort -- receives an average of 18 feet of snow each winter.