July 29, 2016

Judge: ART can move forward

Albuquerque Rapid Transit sign in downtown Albuquerque

A federal court judge gave Mayor Richard Berry the green light to begin construction on his $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project down Central Avenue.

U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the project as had been requested by ART opponents.

Gonzales ruled that the Federal Transit Administration and the city did all the environmental and historical studies as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The city said it hopes to begin construction on ART next week and that the project should be completed by the fall of 2017.

Berry hopes ART will spur billions of dollars in real estate development projects along ART’s 8.75-mile-long corridor.

IT wasn’t immediately clear if ART opponents would appeal Gonzales’ decision.

In his opinion, Gonzales expressed a personal skepticism about ART, but said the law required him to deny the requested injunction. Here’s what his opinion said:

“If or when the ART project is constructed and put into operation, there may be a day when I will utilize it and fully realize everything the system now is envisioned to be: a speedy, convenient, environmentally smart transportation system that, in addition, spurs necessary economic development into an area of Albuquerque that needs it. Today, however, and from a personal standpoint, I cannot be certain that I buy in. It means changes to an area of Albuquerque that I may not be ready to accept. But to resolve this matter, I must set aside my personal opinion and employ the correct legal standards. Indeed, this Court is bound by those standards. And after objectively applying the correct legal standards and considering all the aforementioned submissions, I must DENY the motions”

Attorney John McCall, who represented plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits, said it was too early to tell if there would be an appeal.