Paz Bridge on US 285

New Mexico True Highway Art

In this section

New Mexico has over 1,500 bridges on our state highway system, some of which provide an ideal setting for visual art featuring our natural environment and cultural communities.

To celebrate New Mexico’s landscapes and cultures, the New Mexico Department of Transportation has engaged gifted, local artists through the years to interpret many of these places so that the traveling public might experience New Mexico’s unique character. 

Set out on the open road and enjoy the amazing diversity of place and people that makes New Mexico True!

Photos By Jake Schoellkopf/NMDOT

Albuquerque

Paseo del Norte and I-25 Bridge in Albuquerque

This bridge was completed in late 2014 as part of a design-build project designed to alleviate congestion for those heading to and from the NW part of the metropolitan area. The earth-tone color scheme of the bridge has colors relating to the nearby Sandia Mountains to the east. At dusk typically the bridge and the mountains are washed with a ‘watermelon’ color.  Iconic red hot air balloons above an alternating lavender river-cloud motif cover the outward-facing concrete wall barrier.  The image concepts came from the design team and were vetted through public involvement.

I-40 and Coors Pedestrian Bridges in Albuquerque

Golden, NM artist Karen Yank was commissioned through public process to create artwork for the pedestrian bridges and the sound walls. Completed during the Richardson administration the metallic work with unique circular iconography serves as a vibrant gateway experience when entering or leaving Albuquerque west of the Rio Grande. The metallic pieces are part of the City of Albuquerque’s Permanent Art collection and have complementary lighting for night time viewing.

I-40 and Tramway Bridge in Albuquerque

Bridge wall barriers have a Southwest motif and bright blue color treatment. Embedded in the slope paving are replicas of extinct aquatic invertebrates from the Pennsylvanian Era from about 300 million years ago which are now found in fossil limestone form in the nearby Manzanita Mountains south of Tijeras.  These include trilobites, eurypterids (water scorpions), and spiriferid brachiopods.

I-40 and Unser Bridge in Albuquerque

Changing colors of an electric rainbow hue illuminate this gateway bridge on I-40 near the West Mesa in Albuquerque. By bouncing the colors off of the bridge structure and utilizing LED lights designers have been able to provide a visually arresting experience which at night frames the twinkling lights of the metropolis heading east and the volcanic escarpment heading west.

Arroyo Seco

White Buffalos and Horse Bridge, Pojoaque at Arroyo Seco on US 285 north of Santa Fe

Constructed in 2014, this bridge has art painted on its slope pavement which was provided by Pojoaque Pueblo Governor and artist George Rivera. The white buffalo refers to a Native American myth about a positive change occurring in the world when the albino buffalo appears. The yellow moon and stars provide context for the animals. On the opposing side white horses with a brilliant red sun provide a dramatic gateway experience for travelers moving to and from the area.

Jemez Springs

Motel Boulevard Bridge on I-10 in Las Cruces

Selected through public process, Golden, NM artist Karen Yank was commissioned to provide artwork for the bridge on the west side of Las Cruces which was completed in 2013. Local residents generated  the theme of ‘dinosaurs to space’ reflecting the local importance of dimetrodon fossils found in the  nearby Robledo Mountains to the NW and the construction of the Spaceport in the Jornada del Muerte north of Las Cruces. While the dimetrodon is not technically a dinosaur it was an up to 15’ long meat-eating reptile found in the Permian period approximately 275 million years ago. Aside from the Buck Rogers-type spacecraft depicted on the wing walls and elsewhere there is also river imagery relating the Rio Grande and the iconic state flower the yucca. The work was executed in concrete with form liners with stains deployed instead of paint for maintenance reasons. LED lighting in the evening hours provides a lively passage for travelers in the area.

Las Cruces

Motel Boulevard Bridge on I-10 in Las Cruces

Selected through public process, Golden, NM artist Karen Yank was commissioned to provide artwork for the bridge on the west side of Las Cruces which was completed in 2013. Local residents generated the theme of ‘dinosaurs to space’ reflecting the local importance of dimetrodon fossils found in the  nearby Robledo Mountains to the NW and the construction of the Spaceport in the Jornada del Muerte north of Las Cruces. While the dimetrodon is not technically a dinosaur it was an up to 15’ long meat-eating reptile found in the Permian period approximately 275 million years ago. Aside from the Buck Rogers-type spacecraft depicted on the wing walls and elsewhere there is also river imagery relating the Rio Grande and the iconic state flower the yucca. The work was executed in concrete with form liners with stains deployed instead of paint for maintenance reasons. LED lighting in the evening hours provides a lively passage for travelers in the area.

Avenida de Mesilla Bridge on I-10 in Las Cruces

Selected through public involvement, Golden, NM artist Karen Yank provided lively imagery to commemorate the Camino Real (royal road) which led from Mexico City through Chihuahua and Mesilla and onto points further north in New Mexico. Executed in concrete with form liners and utilizing stains instead of paint to save on maintenance, the artwork has LED lighting for evening hour enjoyment. A frieze depicting the Rio Grande is found on the wall barrier on I-10 and along the base of the abutment wall. Other imagery depicts the state flower, the yucca, pinon pines and native wildflowers.

Engler Rd and I-25 Bridge in Las Cruces

Constructed in 2012, NMDOT worked with local Dona Ana artist Jenny De La O Carbajal to create this vivid design for the I-25 bridge over Engler Rd in Las Cruces.  A native Mexican gray wolf in various stances moves through the purple colors of a Chihuahuan desert evening landscape with the Organ Mountains in the background. The wolf stops to bay at the silvery moon. Other imagery depicted is our state bird, the quick-running roadrunner and a faceted diamond representing the strong winds which carry spirit across the bridge. Bright yellows, red, purples and turquoise with rich earth tones complete the bridge and make it a unique expression of this community and place.

Pojoaque

Kuuyemugeh Bridge on US 285

North of Santa Fe on US 285 this colorful bridge in Cuyamungue has the traditional Tewa spelling of the name for this area on the bridge girder. Also depicted is maize or corn which is one of the traditional crops for the Native American indigenous people. Graphically powerful symbols of a deer and a woman in traditional clothing complete the design. Pojoaque Pueblo artist and Governor George Rivera provided this imagery as part of the corridor construction process.

Posuwaegeh Bridge on US 285

Dramatic imagery on this bridge by Pojoaque Pueblo artist and Governor George Rivera expresses the cultural life of the tribe. The prominent ‘whirling log’ images are an ancient symbol of acquiring knowledge among some Native American peoples and have no connection to negative European associations.  Clouds, sun, and mountains speak of a close connection to nature.

Santa Fe

NM 599 and County Rd 62 Bridge in Santa Fe

Bas-relief artwork on the bridge was completed in 2013 and was a mitigation measure for the visual impacts of the new bridge construction on the view shed for area residents. Residents of Tesuque Pueblo chose pueblo artist Leanna Aragon to produce imagery for the south side of the bridge, which depicts the importance of corn in pueblo life, Avanu the water serpent, and the turkey, many of which were raised at the ancestral home of Tesuque nearby in what is now Agua Fria Village. Agua Fria Village native Leo Romero muralist Leo Romero was selected by the Agua Fria community to produce imagery for the bridge north side which depicts the springs for which Agua Fria is named and wood cutters harvesting wood in the nearby western Caja del Rio area. The wall barriers above on both sides have depictions of the mountain horizons which the traveling public encounters when traveling each direction.

Paz Bridge on US 285 in Santa Fe

North of Santa Fe on US 285 on the Tano Rd overpass muralist Frederico Vigil created these images with blue and yellow oxen and horses relating to the El Camino Real (the royal road), which continues on to Taos. Incised into the concrete with form liners and treated with bright colors the images frame a ‘Paz’ (peace) message which is centered on the bridge structure. From this location the bridge frames dramatic views north all the way into Colorado and south over Santa Fe to the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque.

US 285 and Tesuque Village Rd P’oe Hu’u Bridge north of Santa Fe 

On US 285 north of Santa Fe this bridge lies within the Tesuque Pueblo boundaries, this imagery is only seen by the traveling public when crossing beneath it. The frieze symbols on the wall barrier are common in Pueblo culture while the migrating birds are a frequent sight during the passage of the seasons.  Cloud motifs with rain replenishing the blue rivers beneath are seen on one side while dramatic summer lightning striking from the clouds is seen on the other. The artist is unknown.

Santa Rosa

I-40 and County Rd 4 Bridge in Torrance County

Imagery on this bridge is by Navajo artist Morris Muskett who was also an engineer with NMDOT at the time the work was done.  The roadrunner is the NM state bird and is frequently found on the central plains of the short grass prairie. The wave motif refers to the ancient inland seas which covered most of the state. The yucca is the state flower and is a plant prized for many ethnobotanical uses.  Lastly the Zia symbol has been found on the state flag since admission to the Union in 1912 and is used by agreement with the Zia Nation.

I-40 and US 84 Bridge near Santa Rosa

Navajo artist Morris Muskett depicts with form liner treatment in concrete and polychrome finish the qualities of the central New Mexico plains where they meet the pinon-juniper woodland. The wind is a frequent element to contend with here for residents and travelers alike while hot air balloons with the Zia image reflect a popular pastime for which Albuquerque is famous. Wind mills and cattle are a frequent sight from the European area of settlement in the state. The yellow-tan color relates to the winter color of the short-grass prairie, largely composed of highly nutritious blue grama grass.

Torrance County

I-40 and County Rd 4 Bridge in Torrance County

Imagery on this bridge is by Navajo artist Morris Muskett who was also an engineer with NMDOT at the time the work was done.  The roadrunner is the NM state bird and is frequently found on the central plains of the short grass prairie. The wave motif refers to the ancient inland seas which covered most of the state. The yucca is the state flower and is a plant prized for many ethnobotanical uses.  Lastly the Zia symbol has been found on the state flag since admission to the Union in 1912 and is used by agreement with the Zia Nation.