The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Monday temporarily barred the city from taking any action to build Mayor Richard Berry’s Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. The move came in response for an emergency order to stay a decision on Friday by a federal court judge to deny ART opponents a preliminary injunction halt ART they had requested. The appellate court in Denver enjoined the city from taking any action on ART until its judges have a chance to fully review a request by the plaintiffs to bar the city from proceeding with ART construction pending their appeal of Friday’s decision by U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales who denied their request for a preliminary injunction. The court ordered the Federal Transit Administration and the city to file their responses to the defendants’ motion by 4 p.m. Tuesday. “The city is specifically directed to include in its response information on the nature and timing of any demolition or construction related to the ART project that is planned between now and the close of business Wednesday,” the appellate court order said.
City officials have long and often argued that the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project had to be run on dedicated lanes down Central Avenue in order to qualify for a “Small Starts” grant from the Federal Transit Administration. It has been those dedicated bus lanes and the reduction of general auto traffic on Central to two lanes in each direction between Louisiana and Coors that has caused much of the opposition to ART. The project’s opponents have also said that the city never considered an alternative to running ART down the middle of Central on dedicated lanes. This article originally appeared on the ABQ Free Press website and is reprinted at NM Political Report with permission. But more than two years ago a planner in the city’s transit department emailed his superiors to tell them that his interpretation that ART had to be run on dedicated lanes in order to get a Small Starts grant was incorrect.
Mayor Richard Berry says the city has received approval from the federal government to immediately begin construction on the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project. The federal OK comes just days before a hearing next week on two federal court lawsuits seeking to stop ART. The city will hold off on beginning ART until after a judge rules, Berry said. The approval to spend federal grant money came in the form of a “Letter of No Prejudice” from the Federal Transit Administration, which allows the city to spend up to $59 million in federal grant money on the project. The FTA issued the letter on Monday.
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.