What's next for ART?: Many disappointed after problems revealed | KOB 4
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What's next for ART?: Many disappointed after problems revealed

Kassi Nelson
January 10, 2018 10:38 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Mayor Tim Keller called the $135 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project "a bit of a lemon," saying it could take a year to fix a laundry list of problems.

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Between problems with buses and construction mistakes along Central Avenue, ART is far from finished. The mayor's announcement Tuesday left businesses and shoppers on the city's most iconic street wondering what's next.

Many people say they had reservations about the project from the start. They're disappointed and frustrated, especially those whose livelihoods have been impacted. Dillon Kiley, the manager at Orchid Thai Cuisine, said making it through ART construction was a bumpy road.

"We were looking forward to the construction being done, of course, like everyone else," he said. "But it seems like it's never-ending."

Keller said they'll have to redesign the platform right in front of the restaurant because it's too close to the intersection.

"Really, I'm not surprised the way the construction's been going the way that it happened," Kiley said. "It was rushed."

No one who KOB spoke with Wednesday said they were surprised by ART's issues, but they are disappointed.

"It's not even done yet, and it took a lot of the taxpayers' money first of all, which was like really ridiculous," said one person, Dreena Peralta.

"I think it's the biggest boondoggle the city has seen in a long time, and we're going to be paying for it for a long time," added another resident, Clark McLean.

Larry Rainosek, the owner of Central's iconic Frontier Restaurant, said he just wants to know what went wrong.

"It would appear that during the construction phase someone would have noticed hey wait a minute this might not work," he said.

Rainosek said although Central has reopened, things aren't looking up like they should be. They were counting on ART bringing in more people. For now, he's left with empty platforms, less traffic and fewer customers.

"We're going to try to make a push to go ahead and get vehicular traffic to use that bus lane till the modifications are made," he said.

KOB reached out to former Mayor Richard Berry about the problems with ART. He provided this response:

"ART has been acknowledged by outside experts as one of the best-designed transit projects in America and that hasn't changed," Berry said. "As I read the list of issues, I believe that taxpayers have contractual protections in place and I am confident that the Keller administration can work with the bus vendor and others to resolve the issues and get the entire project up and running in a timely manner."

When it came to the ART construction phase, it wasn't a smooth road.

  • Last March, workers were forced to re-lay the brand new surface near Central and Rio Grande after it cracked even though the spokesperson said it passed the stress test for heavy buses.
  • Weeks later, crews hit a water main and two sewage lines. The mess ended up inside multiple businesses, causing severe damage.
  • Then last summer, noticeable chunks of tactile pavement missing from ART platforms. Officials said the chipping was expected before the material was sealed.

That didn't stop people from questioning whether the project was being done carefully. Keller said he always knew there would be issues to sort out with art, but he's admitted the problems are much worse than anyone believed.

What went wrong? That seems to be a big question. Keller gave some insight Tuesday.

"So the first misstep I'm sure we're aware of as a community is the lack of input and so forth on the front end of the ART project," he said.

KOB reached out to Bradbury Stamm, the company that's leading the construction, to find out how ART got to this point. Their spokesperson provided this statement: "The contractor is working closely with the mayor's office and the design team to identify any changes or modifications to the currently installed design."

KOB asked the same question to the ART spokesperson. Another statement said: "The mayor put new leadership in place for the art project and is working with us to find solutions to make ART work for everyone."

Despite the problems, Keller said there's no turning back now.

Credits

Kassi Nelson

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

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