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Legal battles over ART project continue

Mayor Richard Berry’s administration has hired five attorneys from an out-of-state law firm to help defeat the lawsuits aimed at stopping Albuquerque Rapid Transit.

The city has hired Denver-based Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell LLP under a contract that could reach $75,000. The attorneys have hourly rates ranging from $250 to $425.

Jessica Hernandez, the top attorney at City Hall, said she hired the firm for its expertise.

“The primary attorneys have extensive experience in federally funded transportation projects and environmental impact issues,” she said.

That, of course, is a crucial debate in the litigation attempting to halt Albuquerque Rapid Transit, a $119 million plan to build a network of bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue.

Opponents argue that the Federal Transit Administration improperly failed to require the kind of environmental analysis called for in federal law.

Hernandez said the $75,000 contract should be enough to cover Kaplan Kirsch and Rockwell’s early work, but a supplemental contract might be necessary. If so, it would go to the City Council for approval, she said.

Effort to stop ART

On the other side of the debate are local attorneys John Boyd, Yolanda Gallegos and John McCall.

In federal court this month, Boyd and Gallegos filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop work on the project. Their 47-page memo to the judge argues that allowing the city to move ahead with the project would violate federal, state and city laws – covering everything from environmental protections and historic preservation to the rules on layout of local streets.

The city has not yet filed its answer. But the Berry administration has said repeatedly that it expected litigation all along and that the project is legally sound.

Zuni Road upgrade

Zuni Road – one of the city’s most dangerous streets, Councilor Pat Davis says – will get a $1.1 million upgrade this summer.

Crews will add new bicycle lanes, a center turn lane and improved pedestrian crossings at high-traffic intersections. The work will be done in phases this month and in July.

Davis said four pedestrians have been hit by vehicles in a three-mile stretch of Zuni since he took office in December. One person died.

The improvements should make the area much safer, Davis said.

Dan McKay:


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