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City carries on with planned construction

A rendering of the interior of the planned International District public library. (Courtesy City of Albuquerque)

An International District public library, shown in this rendering, is among $70 million worth of big and small projects the city of Albuquerque plans to initiate in the next six months. (Courtesy City of Albuquerque)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

An International District public library in the works for a decade soon will begin rising.

So will a long-anticipated pump station meant to thwart flooding in the city’s core.

The two developments are among $70 million worth of big and small projects the city of Albuquerque plans to initiate in the next six months. Officials say the work will not only produce new facilities and improved infrastructure but also promote construction activity during the economy’s COVID-19-related slowdown.

The projects have existing funding, officials said. Sources include the $128 million general obligation bond program city voters approved last November, state appropriations and past bond cycles.

“We know part of the recovery in the community is the economy … and how the economy rebounds after we get past this pandemic that we’re facing,” Albuquerque Chief Operating Officer Lawrence Rael said Wednesday. “Part of that is investing in our infrastructure in a way that makes sense for the community but also creates economic vitality.”

The construction spending will produce new gross receipts taxes that come back to the city coffers and keep money flowing into other businesses, officials say. When construction crews get paid, “they’re out there buying groceries, buying dinner, still buying gas,” Albuquerque Municipal Development Director Pat Montoya said. “We’re putting money in their pocket and they’re spending it.”

Many of the projects in the $70 million wave were already scheduled to break ground soon, though the city is pushing the pace on others. In many cases, there are fewer logistical hurdles while the state is under a stay-at-home order meant to limit the spread of coronavirus. Many of the projects on tap involve streets, such as a roundabout at 12th and Menaul, and installing new medians along parts of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit route.

With less traffic and a reduced need for barricading, the projects can be done faster and for less money, Rael said.

Other projects in the lineup include the new Singing Arrow Community Center in Southeast Albuquerque, a West Side community center at 98th and DeVargas, a new field at the Jennifer Riordan Spark Kindness Sports Complex, upgrading the pedestrian underpass at First and Central and Americans with Disabilities Act-related improvements in several areas of the city.

Construction is considered essential work under current state orders, and Mayor Tim Keller said the companies want to keep working and are accustomed to rules meant to protect employees.

“We want to try and make sure to keep this part of the economy in central New Mexico going as best we can and keep those people working while keeping them safe,” he said.

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