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Meeting over bus rapid transit project turns chaotic

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A public meeting erupted into shouts of opposition and chaos late Wednesday as city officials tried to explain the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project to an angry crowd.

It was the first of a series of five meetings planned this week and next to address construction plans for the $119 million project, which would involve a system of dedicated bus lanes and stations along Central Avenue, the old Route 66.

One woman held a “Stop Ruining My Neighborhood” sign. Others shouted out questions and interrupted city transit officials who were trying to get everyone to break into small groups for more focused discussion.

At one point, a man stood on a chair. Atop the chair, Anthony Anella, an architect, announced that the city was trying to divide and conquer the crowd rather than let people ask questions.

“The city would like us to believe this is a done deal,” he said. “It’s not.”

Bruce Rizzieri, Albuquerque’s transit director, acknowledged to the crowd that more people had shown up than expected. But he urged everyone to break into small groups to discuss the project with facilitators who would take notes.

The crowd of about 110 – standing-room only in the Special Collections Library in east Downtown – wasn’t having it.

“We own this place,” one person called out.

Rizzieri eventually offered to answer questions from people in one part of the room and have the small groups go ahead in another part. Few people participated in the small groups.

“There’s no need to scream,” Rizzieri said at one point. “There’s no need to shout.”

The meeting ran aground almost immediately. The city started with a video presentation, but the volume was low for part of it.

“ART is a smart investment,” the narrator said once the audio was raised.

“No, I don’t think so,” one member of the audience retorted.

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