Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project ran into a legal pothole when a state court judge ordered the City Council to – catch this – do its job and give ART opponents a hearing on a procedural, but also substantive, matter regarding the project. In what is a relatively rare legal procedure, Bernalillo County District Judge Victor Lopez issued a Writ of Mandamus to the Council ordering it to obey a city law that requires it to give ART opponents a hearing on the refusal of the city’s Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission to explain why it has refused to explain its decision – or non-decision – in favor or ART. That body has has twice deferred making a decision on a challenge to ART’s design. Under city law, the Landmarks Commission is required to issue findings of fact, or explain why it has deferred a matter. And if the Commission declines to issue those findings of fact, the Council is required to hold a public hearing on the matter.
When it comes to the court of public opinion, Mayor Richard Berry’s $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project down Central Avenue is in big trouble. Only 28 percent of the city’s registered voters support ART, while 79 percent say it should be put to a public vote, according to a poll by Carroll Strategies, an Albuquerque public relations firm. In addition, only 25 percent believe that ART will boost the city’s economy, and only 23 percent said they would use it after it is built.
This piece originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website and is reprinted with permission. The poll also made it clear that pretty much everyone knows about ART. Of the 2,020 people surveyed, 87.5 percent said they were aware of the project, which would put dedicated bus lanes in the middle of Central and mostly reduce automobile traffic to one lane in each direction along a 10-mile stretch of the street.
Mayor Richard Berry’s $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project along Central just got a double-dose of bad news. The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee has recommended a $19 million cut in funding for project, and the New Mexico Restaurant Association now opposes ART. The Appropriations Committee, in its 2017 budget proposal to the full House, has recommended that the FTA’s Small Starts grant for ART be cut from $69 million to $50 million, according to the committee’s report. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee has recommended that the FTA’s Small Starts grants – of which ART is just one applicant – total $240.7 million for all 10 projects, about half of the $407.8 million the House wants to spend. The difference in proposed spending will have to be worked out in conference committee negotiations, and those could be months away.
Mayor Richard Berry’s $119 million bus rapid transit project down Central Avenue will create traffic congestion where none exists and will have to be junked in 19 years to alleviate the congestion it created. That’s not a line from a satirist or comedian, it’s the city’s own assessment of the project submitted in the application it made to get $69 million in federal grant money for ART. And, it’s one of many claims in the city’s 2015 application to the Federal Transit Administration for the grant that don’t make sense, are contradictory or are just plain false, ART critics said during a recent meeting to discuss the project. But the biggest jaw-dropping revelation revelation during Thursday’s meeting by ART critics who have analyzed documents related to the ART project was this:
The city’s own federal transit application shows that, currently, there is no real traffic congestion on Central along the proposed 10-mile ART route. It shows that after ART is built, there will be congestion that ART created, according to attorney Yolanda Gallegos, a co-counsel in a federal court lawsuit that is seeking an injunction against ART.
Mayor Richard Berry’s administration said Tuesday that construction on the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project along Central Avenue will begin in late July. The initial construction will take place in the University of New Mexico area between Girard on the east and Cedar on the west, and then in the downtown area from I-25 to 10th Street. The initial ART line will run from Louisiana on the east to Coors on the West Side. The construction team is being led by Bradbury Stamm Construction, and the team “is planning to avoid construction in Nob Hill and Old Town during the holidays and is working closely with event planners to coordinate construction with key events,” the city said in a news release. Whether that construction actually begins will be up to a federal court judge.
The traffic jams that many predicted would come with Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project have already begun, even though two lawsuits have been filed to stop the project. The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority began relocating water lines Tuesday and Wednesday on opposite ends of Central Avenue in anticipation of ART construction. Work at Central and Old Coors Road on the West Side began Tuesday, and work at San Mateo and Central on the East Side began Wednesday, said ABCWUA spokesperson Patti Watson. This originally ran in the ABQ Free Press The work at both locations has traffic on Central and its cross streets reduced to one lane in one direction. At San Mateo and Central, eastbound traffic on Central was funneled to one lane for at least four blocks west of San Mateo.
Two separate groups of residents and business owners filed lawsuits Monday–one in federal court, and one in state District Court–to stop Mayor Richard Berry’s $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project. Both lawsuits seek injunctions to stop the 10-mile-long ART project along Central Avenue, and both claim that Berry’s administration and the Federal Transit Administration violated federal laws in approving ART. The first lawsuit, filed Monday morning in state District Court in Albuquerque, alleges that in approving ART, Berry’s administration and the Federal Transportation Administration violated the National Historic Preservation Act and the federal Administrative Act. It also alleges that the ART project is a public nuisance and constitutes the taking of private property by the government. This piece originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website.
Terry Brunner is an Albuquerque resident and these views are his own There’s a disturbing trend going on in New Mexico of major public policy issues being pursued without adequate public input and evaluation. The recent decision by the University of New Mexico (UNM) Board of Regents to bring control of the Health Sciences Center under their authority and the City of Albuquerque’s pursuit of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project are two recent examples. In both cases the public felt shortchanged. The UNM Regents rushed through a decision affecting UNM’s nationally-recognized health programs with one public hearing. A proposal of this magnitude was surely in the works for a while.
Tempers boiled over at the most recent meeting to discuss a bus rapid transit system slated to travel down Central. City Councilor Isaac Benton moderated the latest meeting of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit system, or ART, and clashed with some outspoken opponents of the proposal. Video was posted online by ABQ Free Press and as part of a news story by KOB-TV. Both are embedded below. The videos focus on one man, in a blue polo shirt and jeans, heckling Benton and then confronting him.
Albuquerque residents have had an earful when it comes to revamping one of the city’s busiest streets. Local politicians have gone back and forth on whether the city should spend money on new buses and infrastructure along Central Avenue. Note: A version of this appears in the November 4 edition of the ABQ Free Press. The proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit system in Albuquerque has also received national attention from groups who have been fighting both sides of the issue across the United States. In September the Rio Grande Foundation, a local free-market think tank, hosted a lunch with Cato Institute Senior Fellow Randal O’Toole.