It has been announced that the construction on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART) project is now completed, a full 6 months after it was dedicated!
That’s right, it was dedicated back in November by former Mayor Richard Berry as his legacy project to transform Route 66.
In November, 2017, Mayor Richard Berry dedicated ART with great fanfare taking a bus ride on one of the new buses along with a number of supporters.
Berry also made sure a few of the buses were used for the “river of lights” during the month of November before he left office.
What was not reported extensively is that the Berry’s administration ended up renting portable generators to power the buses in order to use them for the River of Lights.
The Keller administration stopped the practice of using portable generators after being informed that using the generators could compromise the equipment’s warranty.
For a full year and a half, businesses and residents endured all the construction along central with the installation of bus platforms in the center of the street.
The platforms have destroyed the character of old Route 66 reducing it to one lane use in either direction.
A number of the business along central could not survive and just went out of business because of ART.
For the first 5 months of Mayor Tim Keller’s term, his administration has been trying to clean up the disaster known as ART not only with the construction of the platforms but the buses and the federal funding as well.
Even though construction on the street bus platforms is finished, ART isn’t done because the buses still aren’t running.
PROBLEMS WITH THE ART BUSES
One month after taking office, Mayor Keller and his CAO Lawrence Rael did a press conference and a few of the many problems with the buses were outlined including:
• Some of the buses could no be charged because the charging system doesn’t work.
• Axles on the buses were leaking oil.
• The buses had not gone through the certification process required in order for the city to be reimbursed for the buses by the federal government. Rael said one of the ART buses put through the certification process did not pass.
• A third-party certification officer wouldn’t certify the chargers that have been installed. “The chargers themselves are not operable because they’ve used what looks like Chinese equipment and probably a different standard for how they built these boxes,” Rael said.
• Fully charged batteries on the buses are supposed to last for 275 miles, but the testing the city did indicated that the charge is only good for 200 miles, which means that the city will need additional buses for ART unless the problem was resolved.
• Restraint belts that are used to keep wheelchairs locked in place while they’re in transit are in different locations in almost all the buses.
• The battery cages that house the bus batteries were already starting to crack and separate.
Under the Keller Administration, another problem with the buses occurred when the Keller Administration and the City took delivery of at least 10 of the buses in California where they were assembled.
Instead of being shipped by rail, the buses were driven across country and a few sustained damages which may have also voided the warranty.
A manufacturer spokesman stated at the time the busses were not designed for cross country driving and any damages caused by the delivery to Albuquerque may not be covered by the warranty.
Mayor Tim Keller said his office is still negotiating contracts with the bus manufacturer.
In the meantime, the buses are not being used and the bus platforms remain idle.
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.
Mayor Keller went to Washington, D.C. hat in hand in January of this year to meet with Federal Transportation Administration officials and to lobby and try to get the $69 million dollars from congress.
Keller came back empty handed with no assurances that the $69 million grant will be funded.
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 second update on ART, Keller said “I think that this notion that somehow we’re just waiting for guaranteed funds is factually inaccurate and it always was.”
The truth is the 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.
The Keller Administration is going to have to find that money somewhere if the Feds do not come through.
It’s really a damn shame so much time is being expended by the Keller Administration to clean up the mess and the disaster known as ART.
The problem is, Mayor Keller now owns the mess know as ART at this point when he announced he wants to turn “lemons into lemonade”.
Keller has said he’ll hold more press conferences to talk about when ART buses will be running.
ART is rapidly becoming an albatross around Mayor Keller’s neck and it will more so the second the City finds out that the $69 million in federal grant money is not going to be received.
The Keller Administration will be stuck footing the bill and finding the money for a disaster that has destroyed Route 66.
We can now call it Keller’s “Albatross Rapid Transit” (ART) Bus Project.
FOR MORE ON ART SEE: