The city of Albuquerque and state of New Mexico this week announced separate investigations into the city’s controversial and troubled Albuquerque Rapid Transit bus system.
The Albuquerque Journal reported late Wednesday the city’s inspector general recently began a review of processes, funding and procedures with in the project.
KOB-TV in Albuquerque reported Thursday the state’s auditor also would investigate ART.
ART has been beset by poorly designed stations, problems with its electric buses, construction that hampered businesses along nine miles of Central Avenue (Route 66) and a $75 million federal grant that still hasn’t arrived more than a year after its announcement.
New mayor Tim Keller last month called the project “a bit of a lemon” and said the problems may take a year or more to fix.
Albuquerque inspector general David Harper is conducting a city review that initially focused on funding:
After beginning the review in November, Harper said he expanded its scope to include quality issues with the ART buses, whether bus maker BYD complied with the Buy America Act and possible ADA compliance issues.
Harper said he expects to complete the review in four to six weeks, after which a public report will be issued.
He also plans on initiating a “low level” investigation of a city Transit Department employee involved in the ART project involved in possible misconduct.
Meanwhile, state auditor Wayne Johnson said he would bring in a third-party accounting firm to probe ART.
“I can’t really tell you how many times somebody has come up to me on the street or in a grocery store somewhere and said, ‘You need to look at ART,” Johnson said.
The state auditor’s office is still determining the scope of its investigation. Johnson said his office plans to start its investigation in the coming weeks.
The Journal and the city were careful to call the inspector general’s inquiry a “review,” not an investigation. This is a distinction without a difference.
At best, the probe likely will uncover incompetence or shoddy design — things that already are well-documented. At worst, it will find corruption that occurred on former mayor Richard Berry’s watch.
Berry, who was ART’s biggest champion, said a nicer and more efficient rapid-transit system was needed to draw high-tech companies and new millennial residents to Albuquerque.
(Artist’s rendering of an Albuquerque Rapid Transit station)