Construction began in earnest Monday on the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project that will affect about nine miles Central Avenue (aka Route 66) for nearly a year.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, crews began removing the concrete medians and their trees so two lanes eventually would be dedicated to city buses and their stations. The city will post construction updates here.
The beginning of construction normally would seem to bring finality to the project, but that’s not the case. There still are plenty of moving parts that could slow or stop the work or bring more disrepute to ART.
— Bernalillo County voters on Election Day will decide on an advisory referendum whether they think a future election should decide the fate of the ART project. It’s a nonbinding vote, but city officials should get a better idea how popular — or unpopular — the mass-transit project really is. Almost 150 businesses in the Nob Hill area of Albuquerque oppose it, but that’s a very small sample size and not indicative of the county’s opinion of it.
— A federal lawsuit against ART still is being considered by an appeals court. A decision is expected by mid-November.
— Businesses along Central reported a drop in revenue because of traffic problems from the construction. And forgivable loans from the city won’t be available until January at the earliest. At least one business told KOAT-TV it needs that money now to cushion the financial blow.
— The city is offering free parking along Central Avenue as construction proceeds.
— The city introduced a promotional program — 66 Reasons to Love Route 66 — to help businesses along Central — to mixed reaction. One business that took advantage of it and saw a 300 percent increase in sales during an event. But the owner of the landmark Frontier restaurant declined to take part: “… Our position is, what good does it do if it’s too difficult to get to the event?”