Mountain-starved Texans and Oklahomans think nothing of driving 12 hours to get their winter sports fix in the southern Sangre de Cristos, but one of their favorite routes in New Mexico just got a bit longer.

A new bridge will be built over Ponil Creek on State Highway 58, which connects Springer to Cimarron, from Dec. 6 to March-April, according to John Chavez, of the New Mexico Department of Transportation. The closure will force visitors heading to Angel Fire, Red River, or Taos Ski Valley onto a secondary road.

A detour route along State Road 21 through Miami, Rayado, and Philmont Scout Ranch to Cimarron should add about 15-20 minutes to the journey, Chavez said, but adds the scenery is well worth the longer drive.

"It's seven miles longer but if you don't get in a hurry, you can see deer and elk out there," he said. "It's a beautiful drive."

State crews are tackling this project during the winter months to avoid dealing with the spring runoff on the Ponil River. High water can hamper any work that has to be done in the riverbed or along the banks, Chavez said. The project includes piping to reduce the width of the wetlands crossing and a safer approach to the bridge, which sits about eight miles east of Cimarron.

For information, Chavez can be reached at 575-643-5340.

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