Two city contractors who worked on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project say they are eager to resolve problems outlined by Mayor Tim Keller during a news conference last Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the city’s new chief operating officer, Lawrence Rael, traveled to Fort Worth last week to try to persuade a federal agency to speed up the $75 million federal grant the city has been banking on for ART.
Whether much progress was made during that meeting with Federal Transit Administration officials is unclear. City spokesman Rick DeReyes would say only that, “The meeting went very well and the city looks forward to continuing the discussion.”
The city worked with several firms on the project. Local company Bradbury Stamm served as general contractor. The lead engineer was HDR, and Dekker/Perich/Sabatini also did design work on the project. Both firms are also local.
“We’ve been here for 95 years. We’re going to work with everybody,” said Cynthia Schultz, chief executive officer of Bradbury Stamm. “We want this project to be as good as it can be.”
Dekker/Perich/Sabatini echoed that sentiment.
“We take the utmost pride in our work and will continue to be diligent in our design of the ART stations,” Natalie Sommer, a spokeswoman for the firm, said in a written statement.
“We want to assure the community that we are committed to working with the city, construction contractor Bradbury Stamm, and transportation planning firm HDR to resolve any and all concerns so the ART project lives up to its promise to move Albuquerque forward as a community.”
The remarks were in response to Keller’s bombshell last week, when he publicly called ART a “bit of a lemon” and said he wouldn’t even guess on when it might be operational.
HDR did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
The company providing the electric buses for ART, California-based BYD America, has previously said it is working overtime to address issues with the buses.
In addition to a host of bus problems Keller and Rael identified during the news conference, they pointed out several design and construction flaws with the project.
• They expressed concern about two stations because of the distance between cross-street intersections and passenger loading platforms. At Washington and Central, for example, the platform is so close to the intersection that a bus coming from the east side going west can’t make the approach without taking up the entire intersection. The city is now weighing whether to reconfigure the intersection.
• They reported finding inconsistencies in the height of the platforms as well as in the distance between platforms and where buses stop, both of which could create problems for wheelchair access.
• And at the Atrisco station platform, they found that buses sit at an angle to the platform because the road is sloped, which could also create problems for wheelchair users.
Bradbury Stamm officials said the angle problem at the Atrisco station was discovered when one of the buses was brought in. Tyler Nunn, the senior project manager overseeing the project for Bradbury Stamm, said the company was working with the design team on the issue and would fix it once the city signs off on a remedy.
Nunn said the Washington and Central platform was built where construction plans called for it to be built.
As for the concern that some platforms aren’t lining up with bus floors, Nunn and Schultz said that problem could be in the heights of the bus floors.
“I think the important thing to understand is we’re … substantially complete with the project, but there’s always punch list items at the end,” Schultz said. She later added that the project included new sidewalks, lighting and other upgrades along the corridor.
“A lot of improvements were made along Central Avenue,” she said. “People should go out and see.”
ART was former mayor Richard Berry’s signature project. He called it the largest public works project in the city’s history. The project will transform Central into a rapid transit corridor with a nine-mile stretch of bus-only lanes and bus stations.
The project – and associated utility and road work – cost $135.5 million.
Bradbury Stamm received an $82.6 million contract to build the project. The contract guaranteed a maximum price for the work. Money was also spent on such things as engineering, design, modifying some of the intersections in the corridor and installing fiber optic lines.
Rael told the Journal early last week that the city covered the upfront costs through the general fund and other city funds, and it’s hoping the federal government will reimburse those funds with the $75 million grant.
Keller and his team have been scrutinizing the project since taking office on Dec. 1. They will meet with bus company officials this week.
There have also been changes in the city staff overseeing ART.
“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,” DeReyes told the Journal in an email last week.
Under Berry, the project was overseen by Michael Riordan, who had been chief operating officer, and Dayna Crawford, the deputy transit director under Berry.
DeReyes said the project is now being overseen by Rael and Annette Paez, the city transit department’s acting director. But he said Riordan and Crawford continue to provide information to the Keller administration as requested.