Albuquerque’s mayor announced Monday the troubled Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will receive $14 million from a Federal Transit Administration grant, but the fate of a long-anticipated $75 million grant from the agency remains unclear.
The Albuquerque Journal reported:
Mayor Tim Keller in a Monday news conference at the Uptown Transit Center said the federal government is still considering the city’s application for a $75 million grant from the FTA’s Capital Investment Program for the project.
“This is very good news in that we have some money coming through the door,” Keller said. “We’re in constant contact with the FTA on this in that we continue to meet all the criteria. It is still a choice, so we may or may not get that funding, but we’re working on a deadline for that so we can start planning on whether we’re going to get that or not.”
Keller said FTA officials are giving the city “signals that in early fall” the agency will come to a decision on the $75 million grant.
If the FTA rejects the $75 million grant request, the city’s inspector general stated in a report in June that would have a “severe impact on the city’s financial health.”
The $14 million is earmarked for ART roadwork expenses along Central Avenue, aka Route 66. All told, ART cost $135 million to complete along nine miles of Central.
The previous mayor, Richard Berry, shepherded ART through a divided city council, saying the bus transit system was needed to attract new millennial residents and more high-tech companies to Albuquerque.
Though construction along Central is finished, that doesn’t mean ART is fully functioning. Electric buses built by BYD still have to pass testing in Pennsylvania before they are delivered to Albuquerque — something that might not happen until mid-2019. The few BYD buses that were delivered came with design flaws and battery systems that didn’t go as many miles as expected.
The inspector general’s report criticized the city for using general-obligation bonds on the project, proceeding with ART without a grant agreement in place, awarding contracts to untested companies, and appearances of bias.
The state’s auditor also is investigating the ART project.
(Screen-capture image from video of an Albuquerque Rapid Transit sign in Albuquerque)