Mayor Tim Keller conducted his second news conference since taking office on the status of the $175 million ART bus project.
Keller again reported that the project is still has a long way to go before the project will be fully functional and it may not be functional until the end of the year.
According to Keller, progress has been made on fixing and rectifying the construction problems along the bus route, including work on the intersections, problems with heights of the bus stop stations and work to ensure disability compliance with federal regulations.
Problems originally identified by the Keller administration with the bus stop platforms include:
1. Inconsistent height levels on some of the bus stop platforms creating problems for wheelchair accesses ability which is mandated on Federal funded transportation projects such as ART.
2. The Atrisco bus stop platform is at an angle which creates problems of accessibility for people in wheelchairs.
3. Major concerns about two of the bus stations have been raised because of the distance between the intersection and the actual platforms.
4. The Washington and Central platform is so close to the intersection that a bus coming from the east side going west can’t make the approach without taking up the entire intersection.
5. The mirrors on the ART buses are slamming into the pillars that hold up the fabric awnings at the bus stations constructed in the middle of Central and the stations will have to be
altered so the mirrors are protected from damage.
6. The ART bus station at Central and Washington is too short and in order to get the 60-foot-long articulated buses into the station, bus drivers must make an “S” maneuver, which swerves
the buses into regular traffic lanes increasing the risks of traffic accidents.
7. The station at Atrisco and Central is too long resulting in the ART bus going into the station tilted at a three-to-four degree angle resulting in the bus floor being a few inches
higher than the station platform increasing the risk of injury to passengers boarding and exiting the buses.
8. There are gaps of at least three inches at some stations between the platform edge and the bus floor resulting in unsafe boarding and unloading conditions for people with disabilities.
According to Keller, the goal is to have all the construction problems corrected by the end of spring, but it is doubtful ART will be fully functional by the end of the year.
It turns out that the ART Bus Stations were designed around the busses ordered as opposed to busses being designed for the station platforms.
Twenty buses were ordered and all 20 were to have been delivered on or before October 3, 2017, but the City received only nine of the buses.
When the original buses were delivered, the city found issues associated with the buses, everything from serious mechanical failures to some inconsistencies in how the buses were constructed.
Among the problems identified with the buses include:
1. Some of the buses could not be charged because the charging system did not work.
2. Axles on some of the new buses delivered were leaking oil.
3. One of the ART buses put through the certification process did not pass inspection.
4. A third-party certification officer would not certify the electric battery chargers that have been installed for the reason that the chargers themselves were not operable because what
was used were equipment parts manufactured in China that used different standards for how the equipment was built.
5. Fully charged batteries on the buses were supposed to last for 275 miles but testing by the city did indicated that the charge was only good for 200 miles.
6. Cracks in the frames and rear portion have developed on seven of the 10 buses.
7. Radio systems have been delivered in pieces.
All the remaining buses were to be delivered by February, which again did not happen.
There are still significant issues relating to the buses that have been delivered to the point that seven of the buses will now be returned for further repairs.
City officials sent a letter to the bus company and developer notifying them that Albuquerque was sending back the seven buses because of serious issues like cracks, axle problems and complications with charging.
THE FEDERAL FUNDING
There are continuing problems with the federal funding.
The city is still waiting on the federal government for the $69 million grant to reimburse the city for the project.
Keller went so far as to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet and try to work with federal authorities to try and secure the funding.
Mayor Tim Keller in his second report on the ART project is quoted as saying:
“To be clear, funds were never guaranteed. … That was simply never the case.”
What was simply the case is that former Mayor Richard Berry, former Chief Operations Officer Michael Riordan and former Transit Director Bruce Rizierri repeatedly lied to the public that the federal money was forthcoming because the city had received a “letter of no prejudice” from the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) on the funding expressing support for the project.
During the update, Keller said “I think that this notion that somehow we’re just waiting for guaranteed funds is factually inaccurate and it always was.”
Michael Riordan in particular said that he felt certain Congress would approve the $69 million-dollar grant and the withholding of such federal monies on such approved projects has never happened in the past.
The truth is House and Senate Congressional committees cut $20 million dollars from the grant with no guarantee that it will be made up in this year’s budget resulting in Albuquerque having to identify additional funding sources to make up for the shortfall.
Mayor Keller said he intends to give another update on ART in the next four to six weeks.
While he is at it, Mayor Keller should ask for a meeting with Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torres so Keller can give him an update on the project and ask him to convene a special grand jury to investigate what happened, if anyone illegally benefited from the project and if anything, criminal happened justifying prosecution.
For more commentary please see the following articles:
January 10, 2018 article: “The Lemons And Lies Of Berry’s ART”:
January 22, 2018 “Mayor Keller Should Scrap Art And Find Alternatives”:
January 23, 2018 article: “District Attorney Should Convene Special Grand Jury To Investigate Art Bus Project”: