Southern Road to Spaceport America Nearly Completed

Sunset at the “Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space” terminal hangar facility at Spaceport America. (Credit: Bill Gutman/Spaceport America)

The long-awaited southern road that will cut travel time between Las Cruces and Spaceport America is nearing completion, the Las Cruces Sun-News reports.

Finally, after years of delays and uncertainties, the roughly 24-mile-long road is paved. Some details remain in the overall project, which Doña Ana County officials expect to be completed in August.

Doña Ana County Manager Fernando Macias said he drove the road on July 9 to see how it looked.

“From my perspective, it’s 98 percent complete,” he said. “Maybe a little bit of touch-ups (are needed) as we go along because we haven’t technically accepted the road or accepted the finality of the project.”

For years, there’s been a dirt road along the southern route, which stretches from the Upham Exit of Interstate 25 to the spaceport. But it was in poor condition, and drivers, especially those in passenger cars, found it impassable. Even people driving trucks reported frequent flat tires.

Currently, motorists must drive north of the spaceport on I-25 to Truth or Consequences and then double back on local roads to reach the spaceport.

The $14 million project is being paid for by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which runs Spaceport America. The state of New Mexico has spent about $225 million on the spaceport project, whose anchor tenant is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

Virgin Galactic continues to test SpaceShipTwo Unity at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The ship is designed to carry six passengers and two pilots on suborbital flights.


  • Lee

    Everyone sing along with the Talking Heads…. “We’re on a road to nowhere…”

  • Hemingway

    Perfectly said!

  • Jeff2Space

    I knew the comments would have a “road to nowhere”. You didn’t disappoint.

  • ThomasLMatula

    it is sad to see how the original vision for the Southwest Regional Spaceport was run off the road by the X-Prize Cup and Virgin Galactic. The only “space” tourism in the original 1990’s research on it was for area where folks would be able to view the launches. Even now they could salvage the facility, but they would have to return to the original business model that focused on the SER (Science, Education and Research) markets which were intended to serve and which were to spinoff new technologies to create new industries and jobs in the region, not just collect a few nickels and dimes left behind by the space tourists VG will fly, someday…

  • patb2009

    14 million for 25 miles is about $600,000/mile for a road in a desert,
    with some gravel, blacktop, almost no drainage, and probably no lighting or controls…

    Doing heavy roads with bridges, drainage, lighting, controls, safety, gets really pricey.

  • patb2009

    as you point out, there is no reason to not do SER/STEM there even now.

    I believe some science missions are flying out of SA now.

  • Emmet Ford

    we haven’t technically accepted the road or accepted the finality of the project

    Acceptance is the final stage in the grieving process.

  • ThomasLMatula

    There are and there is no reason to do more, not just with more launches but with numerous other activities that would advance space technology. But they seem to have little interest in pursuing such activities.

  • Search

    $14M paid and about $2M spent on the road. The rest into offshore accounts. Bet on it.

  • redneck

    $2M wouldn’t pay for the asphalt material alone. not to mention sub base, labor and such.. I’ll bet against you. There’s plenty of malfeasance to go around without making some up.

  • Vladislaw

    Paving Cost / mile

    Information below was provided by Aric Morse of the Paving Department

    • Use a cost of $120,000 per lane mile for 2 lane roads

    • Use a cost of $502,000 per lane mile for 4 lane roads

    • The above costs include ramps

    • Aforementioned costs do not include other appurtenances such as lighting, guard rails and noise walls

    • The lane miles reported by tech services includes collectors/distributors, but not ramps

    • Aric has a computation supporting the $120,000 estimate. The $502,000 estimate is supported by page 8, section 705-1 of the 700 life-cycle cost analysis. The aforementioned costs are 1998 costs and must be appropriately indexed to get to year 2000 replacement costs.

    • Don Fisher of estimating computed the avg cost of appurtenances to add to the aforementioned costs.

  • Lee

    So adjusting to 2018 dollars (from 1998), I get:

    $186,000/lane-mile x 2 lanes x 25 miles = $9.3 million. I doubt this road has lighting, guard rails, or noise walls. Call it an even $10 million.

    However, a July 2014 document from the Arkansas DOT for surfacing “other roads” (not freeway or primary) as $570,000/lane-mile. This would imply a cost of $570,000 x 2 x 25 = 28.5 million, or about twice what NM spent.

  • Vladislaw

    What it really depends on .. who is getting the contract.. how much real competition is there… how much “imported” labor is used… and as always .. location location location .. travel time and costs of the feed stock.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Heh, I was just rewatching an old test flight of F9R on YouTube and was reminded SpaceX was going to do high altitude tests here.

    Do they still keep property there? Or now that they’ve got booster landing down pat have they abandoned any all activity (not that there was much to begin with) at SA?

  • Michael Halpern

    Weren’t those tests at McGregor? In which case, every booster goes there for acceptance testing as does every engine

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    The F9R tests were yes, but the video description alluded to future tests at Spaceport America that never materialized.

  • Michael Halpern

    Let’s put it this way, not only did they figure out most missions had extra capacity that could easily be used for landing tests in more realistic conditions, but the next vehicle they will have to do similar flight tests for needs a very big flame trench

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Yeah, I don’t SpaceX heading to SA anytime soon. I don’t see anybody heading to Spaceport America soon…