Spaceport America delays could cost NM taxpayers millions of dollars

Taxpayer Money Needed For Road Leading To Spaceport America

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - Delays at Spaceport America could cost New Mexico taxpayers millions of dollars.

Spaceport officials told ABC-7 the spaceport's main sources of revenue are not ready yet. Now they're asking the state for more money to make up some of that loss.

Visitors traveling to the spaceport from the south currently have to go all the way to Truth or Consequences and take a road that loops back around to the spaceport.

Spaceport officials are looking for money to finish the southern road that would connect to Interstate 25 near Hatch.

As it stands today, the southern road is 24 miles of dirt and gravel. Spaceport officials plan to ask the state legislature for $6.9 million to finish and pave the road.

"It will go a long way in improving that road. It will straighten it out a little bit because it's got some curves in there. It's going to elevate some of the lower areas that get flooded out," said Christine Anderson, the executive director of the New Mexico Spaceport Authority.

The budget for the road was originally $15 million. Officials had to adjust the budget after delays in several key moneymakers for the spaceport.

Virgin Galactic will not launch this year as speculated. Instead, officials estimate the first commercial space launch will be next summer.

On top of that, two visitors centers won't be done until next December, a full year later than expected.

"We're making progress. It's just I'm sure everybody would like, including me, can we do it faster? We're doing it as quickly as we can," Anderson said.

So what do New Mexico taxpayers think?

"It's not something that I have any interest in so it's not something that I would want to put my tax money into," said Lori Plasencias, a Las Cruces resident.

"I think eventually it's going to be very good for New Mexico but first somebody's got to show some profit around here," said Al Bartz, another Las Crucen.

"You have to spend money to make money. I don't have $50,000 to take a ride, but of course we've gotta add another road so the hotels in Las Cruces can put up all the people that are going to come," said Las Crucen Ron Brooker.

Spaceport officials said finishing the southern road is crucial to the spaceport's success. It will cut down the travel time for visitors coming in from southern New Mexico and El Paso. Officials also hope it will boost the local economy as tourists pass through the area.

Anderson said the spaceport's other tenant, Space X, will launch its first flight within the next few months. She said officials are also talking to several other prospective tenants.

As for when that first commercial flight will take off, officials said it's hard to tell.

"This is the beginning of a whole new industry. We want it to be safe because in the end it's commercial passengers that are going to be flying on a lot of these vehicles so if it takes six months longer or a year longer, so be it," Anderson said.

The spaceport has the money to start improvements on the road now including fencing and cattle guards.

The additional $6.9 million would go towards paving the road.

Spaceport officials will ask for the money in the next legislative session. It could take more than a year after that for the road to be completed.

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