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Route 66 News

Trump budget contains no money for Albuquerque Rapid Transit — for now

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year contains no federal money for Albuquerque Rapid Transit — news that caused anxiety with some city officials and ART supporters.

Mayor Richard Berry remains confident the $119 million ART project to convert nine miles of Central Avenue (aka Route 66) into dedicated bus lanes will receive its $69 million Federal Transit Administration grant later this year — likely between July and October.

The lack of FTA funding in Trump’s budget isn’t just an oversight, according to the Albuquerque Journal:

The Trump budget blueprint proposes limiting funding for the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program – the same New Starts grant program that Albuquerque is banking on to provide $69 million for the ART project. Specifically, his blueprint calls for limiting New Starts grants “to projects with existing full funding grant agreements only.”

Albuquerque does not yet have a full funding grant agreement in place.

In his 2018 budget proposal, Trump says, “Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects.”

At least one city councilor is dismayed:

“This has been one of the major concerns I’ve had throughout this tug of war: trusting in uncertain sources of funds,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis, one of two councilors who voted against ART.

“Why was the city counting their chicks before they hatched?” Lewis asked. “Wishful thinking is not sound leadership. When I sponsored the Interstate 25 Paseo flyover, we built the funding piece by piece, before we brought in the earth-moving equipment, not leaving gaps that could later collapse in on itself.”

Berry told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque that Congress still hasn’t approved a budget that includes ART for the 2017 fiscal year, and Washington lawmakers still have until Oct. 1 to do so.

“I have a lot of confidence the united states congress, the men and women that go there to serve, aren’t going to allow any community, whether it’s Albuquerque, or Phoenix, or Houston, or Los Angeles to have half a project unfinished,” said Mayor Berry.
The mayor has been lobbying for the federal money since August 2015 and expects the money between July and this fall.

City councilor Pat Davis, who was in Washington last week for a conference, told the Journal he’d heard the Trump administration likely will include ART funding in an Omnibus infrastructure bill later this year.

Berry said if the eventual 2017 budget does not contain federal funds for ART, the city probably would have to receive that money piecemeal over several years.

ART is scheduled to be finished late this year. Nobody seems to know what will happen with construction if the Oct. 1 deadline passes and Albuquerque still hasn’t received the grant. Albuquerque was recommended for a FTA grant on Feb. 9, 2016, and it still is waiting.

Complicating matters was a large number of Central Avenue business owners opposed ART, saying long construction time and fewer lanes for commuter vehicles will hurt revenue.

While Berry, a Republican, remains confident Albuquerque Rapid Transit will be federally funded, the Albuquerque Free Press notes most of New Mexico’s congressional delegation who support ART are Democratic. Republicans control the presidency, House and Senate, and the only New Mexico Republican lawmaker in Washington opposes ART.

Berry keeps saying it’s “unprecedented” the Federal Transit Administration wouldn’t award a grant it has recommended. But with a Congress that finds difficulty in getting basic laws passed and a new president who safely can be described as a “maverick” in capital letters, it’s not wise to begin a massive infrastructure project without the money you need to finish it.

(Artist’s rendering of one of the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit stations at Central Avenue and Washington Street)

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3 thoughts on “Trump budget contains no money for Albuquerque Rapid Transit — for now

  1. Eric Hayman

    Having read several articles here on the ART scheme, this strikes me as a pet project dreamed up by a few public officials in Albuquerque to make a name for themselves, and expecting anyone but those officials to pay for it.

    It is part of the nature of those who see it as their birthright to tell other people how to live their lives to expect those other people to not only pay their salaries and pensions but also to finance their often unwanted and unjustifiable grand designs.

    Why should Alaskans’ taxes (there is no such thing as ‘federal money”; only individuals’ taxes that find their way to federal coffers) pay for nine miles of bus lanes in a town in New Mexico?

    And who will use the buses running up and down these bus-only lanes? How will shop customers reach the adjacent shops and other premises? Will they all be expected to carry their purchases home on the buses?

    All around the UK, high street shops struggle to survive when people are denied parking near to those high street shops. I read shopping malls (designed to be reached only by car) in America are having a tough time. Does Albuquerque town council want the same thing to happen to nine miles of local businesses?

  2. Terry Beck

    There you go again, Eric, clouding the issue with clear logic. And how about that mayor’s management method. I’ll misquote him ” What kind of mean folks in Washington would strand us after we have invested so much already.” It would be someone else’s fault clearly, other than those who have pushed this along against tons of locals fighting against it. Good to hear from you again and I thought England was full of government loving spenders. I hate politics deeply but I can’t let you stand alone, Mr. Hayman.

  3. Eric Hayman

    Many thanks, Terry. If you want to see how the UK government spends UK taxpayers’ taxes, go on-line and look at two current projects: HS2 (High Speed 2 – the first being the London to the Channel Tunnel railway line) is to be a super-fast railway line from London to the north of England, but no one can decide which cities it should serve, and it will not go to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

    The second new project is a third runway for London’s Heathrow airport. This has been argued about for decades, and will see not only the destruction of most of a whole village but the contuance of dawn to dusk flights just minutes apart over the very heart of London. With all the attendant risks of a plane coming down. Plus the extra noise and pollution.

    What is needed is a totally new airport where planes wil not fly over London, and a high speed rail link to the capital, as the Chinese did with Hong Kong. But British Airways and the British Airports Authority have too much clout when it comes to what the UK government does.

    I too hate politics, mainly because I have found out over some six decades that my opinions count for nothing. But I still need to get things off my chest.

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