City still battling ART challenges, but mayor touts progress
May 30, 2018 10:24 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller says the city has done everything they can in when it comes to applying for the grants for Albuquerque Rapid Transit. Now it's in the hands of the federal government.
Keller gave an update on the Central Avenue corridor project Thursday afternoon, making several key points. They included when the troubled buses might be ready to roll and if the city could receive $95 million in federal funding.
Congress has put the money aside for projects like this. But Albuquerque has to get the money through the Federal Transit Administration. There's no timeline exactly on when or even if the city sees it, but Keller says the operation of the buses is not dependent on the funds.
"We have crossed every 't' we've dotted every 'i,' and we have met every criterion laid out for the project. That is the good news," he said. "The unfortunate news is that the choice whether or not this project is funded is still a choice. It is truly up to the FTA, even if the project meets every criterion and is pre-approved and all of this, they can always say no."
What if Albuquerque doesn't get that $95 million? Keller said the city will pay the price in the future, taking the money out of the budget for capital improvement projects such as stop signs and roads. It likely would impact the city over a multi-year period.
As for those buses, those have a completely different set of challenges. The buses' biggest issue involved battery life. They were supposed to be able to travel 275 miles on one charge but end up dying about 100 miles short.
This is a problem because the city used that number to determine how many buses to buy and where to put the stops. Now they have to compensate for that by adding more charging stations, adding more buses or both.
Keller said they have three options.
- Dumping BYD and starting over. But that would cost the city $200 million.
- Wait for BYD to get up to speed and send all the buses as promised. That would take too long.
- Looking for another company to complete the fleet of buses. This is the option they're seriously considering.
"We're going to go out to bid," Keller said. We're going to look at diversifying our fleet. That means we'd have a fleet of mixed buses, but that means we wouldn't be held to a particular type of bus, most importantly a particular type of battery."
The city ran four buses from manufacturer BYD during River of Lights late last year. That means the city must keep them, so it's not completely the end of the ART buses as they have been seen.
Keller said those ART buses running could be running for service sometime this fall until the city can backfill with buses from a different company.
Many businesses along Central didn't know if they would make it through ART construction at all. Some didn't.
Jan Barringer, who owns Cheese and Coffee, said she thought about closing a couple times. They transformed their restaurant for dinner to supplement for the loss of business.
"It was a struggle," she said. "I was probably down about 30 percent."
Now Barringer is ready for the whole project to be finished.
"It's been a long time," she said. "Just like all the businesses on Central, we want it back to normal and maybe better. Put those buses in and make Central beautiful again."
Updated: May 30, 2018 10:24 PM
Created: May 30, 2018 05:03 PM
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