According to the city Office of Inspector General report, a combined $96.7 million in federal grants have not been be released to the City of Albuquerque by the Federal Transportation Administration.
$75 million of the $96.7 million is the federal grant money needed to pay for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.
After a full seven months in office, Mayor Tim Keller is still “cautiously optimistic” that the Federal Transportation Administration will approve the federal grant that has been pending approval for over 3 three years since the application was made.
The truth has always been that all the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) has done is send the city a “letter of no prejudice” during the grant process.
The FTA “letter of no prejudice” contained language that said “the authority to incur cost provided in this letter does not constitute an FTA commitment that future dollars will be approved for the project”.
Notwithstanding the no commitment of federal funding, the Berry Administration consistently lied to the city council that the money would be forthcoming.
The Office of Inspector General report found that ART spending carried on despite no advance guarantees on funding.
The Albuquerque City Council bought into the lies and approved the project refusing to put it on the ballot for voter approval.
For all the ART lies see:
For over a full week, Channel 7 tried to get an interview with former Mayor Berry regarding his “legacy project”.
Berry’s public relations firm (yes, he now has a PR firm) finally responded with a comment that said in part “As Mayor, I was an advocate for a world class transit system for Albuquerque. … I believed then and still believe that ART holds great potential for our city.”
Mayor Tim Keller disclosed the “great potential” is the disaster ART really means for the City if the federal grant money is not forthcoming.
Mayor Keller put into perspective what the $96 million means for the city when he said:
“That number is the equivalent of all the capital projects we do over the course of two entire years. … It basically means we have to go on a public works diet for a long time.”
In other words, if the money is not forthcoming from the FTA, projects that are truly needed such as road projects, community centers, parks and repairs to city public facilities will not happen.
Berry’s insistence that ART is a “world class project” shows how out of touch this former Mayor has always been.
A world class transportation project costs billions of dollars like Denver and Phoenix light rail systems.
ART has always been nothing but is a cheesy nine-mile, $129 million bus route that has destroyed historic Route 66 not to mention putting many firms along central out of business.
Mayor Keller tries to give a status report each month regarding the ART Bus project which amounts to nothing more than “pulling the scab” off an infected and festering wound each time.
Rather than keep hoping and praying that the FTA will be forthcoming, Mayor Keller should tell the City Council this is their project they approved it and financed it and they need to come up with a solution and take responsibility for the disaster they funded without any guarantee of a funding source.
One likely scenario is for the city counsel to pass “revenue bonds”.
Over the last 3 years, the City Council borrowed over $65 million dollars to build pickleball courts, baseball fields and the ART bus project down central by bypassing the voters.
(For full story see January 2, 2017 Albuquerque Journal “BYPASSING the Voters” page A-1).
Revenue bonds are repaid with gross receipts tax revenues.
Following are further blog articles on the ART Bus project: