Correcting ART issues could take a year, mayor says | KOB 4
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Correcting ART issues could take a year, mayor says

Kassi Nelson
January 09, 2018 10:14 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Mayor Tim Keller said problems with the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project are much worse than anyone initially believed, and it could take some time before they can be fixed.

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During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Keller admitted he didn't see the severity of the problems coming. The mayor said much of the construction along Central Avenue was done improperly, and he estimates crews will need up to a year to finish correcting the problems.

Keller said some issues are minor, but others are much more concerning.

For example, the charging systems are not able to power up the electric buses. They had to use a homemade system to get them running for the River of Lights.

The buses currently in Albuquerque are not certified by the Federal Transit Administration, and Keller's Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said there are between 20 and 25 issues with some buses, and up to 30 with others. The city sent an ART bus to do a federally required durability test, but it failed.

At some stops, Keller said buses aren't able to line up to platforms properly or pull up close enough, which is a safety concern for people in wheelchairs.

That's not even close to all the issues, Keller said.

The city's contract with the manufacturing company, Build Your Dreams, had a deadline of Oct. 4 to get all 20 buses to Albuquerque, but that didn't happen. The city has only nine, and Rael said there are some that are "still in the box," meaning they're not put together at all.

Meanwhile, a couple of intersections like Central at Washington and Central at Atrisco will have to be redesigned completely, Keller said. Rael added at the Washington platform is too close to the intersection.

"A 60-foot bus cannot make the maneuver off of the dedicated lane off of that platform without going into two lanes of traffic," Rael said. "That is not acceptable as it relates to the operations of the buses."

At Atrisco, the platform is not level with where the bus will park. Keller said that will not be an easy problem to fix. He also says it's a challenge for buses to pull in close enough and the mirrors of the buses hit the columns holding up the canopies.

Rael said the platforms west of Louisiana all the way to Coors have issues and they haven't even examined every platform for problems yet.

So far, Albuquerque has spent $135 million on the project. That includes money the city received from the federal government, but the city is still waiting for $75 million more from the feds as a reimbursement.

Keller once said he had full confidence Albuquerque would get that money, but he said Tuesday it was premature to think the city would ever had the money in the first place. While he would like to say the check is in the mail, it's not. He doesn't know if or when it could be.

"I believe that everything was done with the best of intentions," he said. "But I also know that one hallmark of D.C. right now is uncertainty, so somewhere between those two things is how I feel about it."

Keller said they will meet with the FTA twice this month to talk about getting those funds. He also said it's too early to put a price tag on all the improvements the city is going to have to make to ART, but he said a lot of the costs. He laid blame on the contractors.

"I remember in my MBA classes, they said if you ever have one piece of advice, you know, under-promise and over-deliver. And this is an example of the opposite," he said.

As for when the buses will hit the streets, there's no timeline. Keller said the issues all need to be worked out first.

The ART concept originated in the 2000s with the idea of a light rail system along Central. The idea was scrapped, and the rapid ride buses were put in place as a temporary service until something bigger would arrive.

In 2011, the city began a feasibility study to see whether a bus rapid transit system could work along central. In 2014, the city applied for federal funding. The city still does not have that money.

In April 2016, opponents took legal action to delay the project, saying more traffic studies were needed. Construction eventually got started in October.

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Kassi Nelson

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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