“This Project Is A Bit Of A Lemon”

“The problems are much worse than I think anyone believed. … This project is a bit of a lemon”, so said Mayor Tim Keller about the ART Bus project during an extensive news conference to discuss the ART Bus project.

Keller’s comment will without a doubt go down as one of the biggest understatements in the city’s history summarizing a construction boondoggle costing at least $130,000,000.

Keller really needs to ask if they can paint bright lemon yellow the remaining buses that still need to be delivered.

(See January 9, 2017 Albuquerque Journal on line article “Mayor outlines major problems with ART, including inability to charge buses)

Following is the complete Albuquerque Journal news story and link:

“The problems with the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project are so grave that Mayor Tim Keller and his leadership team won’t even venture a guess on when the controversial project will be operational, although one official acknowledges that there’s little chance that it could be up and running within three months.

City officials outlined serious problems with the electric buses that have been delivered — including the fact that the city is currently not able to charge those buses. There are also design and construction flaws along the ART route, one so serious city officials are exploring the possibility of reconfiguring an intersection.

“Out of the 20 buses that were supposed to be delivered on Oct. 3, 2017, we’ve only received nine buses,” Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael told the Journal. “Out of the nine buses that we’ve received, we have found issues associated with those buses, everything from mechanical failures to some inconsistencies in how the buses are put together.”

The problems are such that the city, under Mayor Richard Berry’s administration ended up renting portable generators to power the buses in order to use them for the River of Lights, Rael said.

He said the Keller administration stopped that practice after being informed that using the generators could compromise the equipment’s warranty.

Among the biggest problems:
• Some of the buses can’t be charged because the charging system doesn’t work.
• Axles on the buses are leaking oil.
• The buses have 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 has done so far indicates that the charge is only good for 200 miles, which means that the city will need additional buses for ART unless that problem is 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 are already starting to crack and separate.
• There are also problems with inconsistent heights on some of the platforms, which creates problems for wheelchair access.
• The Atrisco platform, meanwhile, is at an angle, which, again is creating problems for people in wheelchairs.
• And the Keller administration is concerned about two stations because of the distance between the intersection and the actual platforms. At the Washington and Central platform, for example, the 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, Rael said. He said the city is considering reconfiguring that entire intersection.

Rael said the city hasn’t signed off on any of the equipment or the construction. He said the problems with the buses appear to be a failure of the bus manufacturer, Build Your Dreams, to meet the terms of the RFP or the contract.

ART has been billed as a project that will transform Central Avenue into a rapid transit corridor with a nine-mile stretch of bus-only lanes and bus stations. The project — and associated utility and road work — comes with a $135 million price tag.

The city has been banking on $75 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program for the project, but that funding agreement has not yet been signed.”


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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.