The troubled Albuquerque Rapid Transit project will receive a $75 million grant from the federal government — more than a year after it was initially announced by the city.
Mayor Tim Keller said Tuesday the money will come in two installments in the coming weeks from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program, reported the Albuquerque Journal and other media outlets.
Some feared the FTA wouldn’t cough up the money at all, leaving the city in a deep financial hole. Keller, who described ART as “a lemon” shortly after he took office, clearly was relieved by Tuesday’s news (via KOB-TV):
“This outcome alleviates the burden of having to cover the cost of the project with City funds or new tax dollars. This project has been a long road for our city and frankly we’ve had to clean up a big mess. There is still a ways to go, but at least now we can balance the books with our residents’ tax dollars restored.”
The previous mayor, Richard Berry, shepherded the $135 million ART project on nine miles of Central Avenue (aka Route 66) through a divided city council, saying the bus transit system was needed to attract new millennial residents and more high-tech companies to Albuquerque.
Route 66 businesses saw steep declines in revenue during construction, and several lawsuits tried to stop the project.
Though construction along Central finished in May, that doesn’t mean ART is functioning. Electric buses built by China-based BYD have to pass testing in Pennsylvania before they are delivered to Albuquerque — something that might not happen until next year. The few BYD buses that were delivered came with design flaws and battery systems that didn’t go as many miles as expected.
The city’s inspector general criticized the city for using general-obligation bonds on the project, proceeding with ART without the 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 of an Albuquerque Rapid Transit sign)