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Editorial: We paid for it; time to get this ART show on the road

In the wake of Mayor Tim Keller’s news conference last month when he referred to the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project he inherited as “a bit of a lemon,” some are calling for the city to scrap the project and stop throwing good money after bad.

Fabritec workers install the ART Station shade structure at Central and Coors in July 2017. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/ Journal)

But given the $134 million already spent on the project – and associated utility and road work – we’d say that short-sighted approach would leave a sour taste in taxpayers’ mouths.

The city is still banking on $75 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Program for the nine-mile project on Central Avenue. While that money still hasn’t come in, one thing is certain: If the city were to scrap the project, it would be on the hook for the entire cost.

We’d also note the city and its contractors appear to be making progress on the many problems Keller and Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael identified with the project. According to ART spokeswoman Joanie Griffin:

• Work on the intersection at Washington and Central was done Friday, and rather than moving the intersection 15 feet as earlier feared, it simply involved adjusting the lane striping by around six feet. That solved the problem of westbound buses on Central partially blocking the adjacent lane.

• Contractor Bradbury Stamm Construction begins work Monday on around 200 feet of the Atrisco concrete platform. The work will take several weeks to complete. The road next to the platform was sloped, creating issues for wheelchair users.

Both of those fixes are being done at no cost to taxpayers, Griffin says. Other issues include placement of signals, additional signage, ensuring ADA access from platforms to buses – some are already fixed, others are in the process of being fixed.

Of course, the city is still waiting to receive nine of the 20 60-foot articulated electric buses it was originally supposed to get by Oct. 4 – the latest has five on the road to Albuquerque and the final four arriving by the end of the month.

And while the city has said there are problems with the buses the city has received, BYD America, the bus company, has said it is working overtime to address the issues and to fulfill its contractual obligations. “Taxpayers will not pay a dime until we do,” Macy Neshati, senior vice president with BYD America, said in January.

It’s still unclear when the city will be able to have drivers fully trained and launch ART.

But whether some Metro residents like it or not, the bill for ART is here, and the project isn’t far behind. Here’s to the Keller administration delivering lemonade to taxpayers thirsty for a transit project that delivers.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.