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Court rules prep work can continue on ART

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal appeals court granted an emergency motion Tuesday allowing Mayor Richard Berry’s administration to resume work preparing for Albuquerque Rapid Transit.

The city can allow its subcontractors to carry out “non-destructive, pre-construction” activity – such as surveying, monitoring, putting up traffic-control devices and similar work – under a short order issued by the court Tuesday.

The court has not yet ruled on the broader case brought by opponents, who are aiming to stop the project before construction begins.

The short ruling came after attorneys for the city of Albuquerque told the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday that they faced a deadline to issue a notice allowing sub-contractors to begin surveying, noise monitoring and similar work necessary before construction can start later this month or next. The work would have to be re-bid and prices might go up if the city didn’t allow the companies to move forward, the city argued.

Opponents of the rapid-transit project, meanwhile, said there was no need for the 10th Circuit to allow any immediate work. Prices wouldn’t necessarily go up, they said, if new bids are needed, and some of the pre-construction activity will create the very traffic congestion they oppose.

The case is at the 10th Circuit after opponents filed an appeal seeking to overturn a lower-court decision, which had rejected opponents’ motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the project.

The city’s emergency motion, in any case, offers some insight into when demolition and other construction work would begin.

City officials want to authorize their general contractor, Bradbury Stamm, to begin construction Aug. 22, though it’s possible work might not actually start until Sept. 3.

The $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project would create a nine-mile network of bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue, between Louisiana and Coors.

Opponents say it would damage the car-friendly charm of what was once Route 66 and lead to traffic congestion. They’ve also argued in court that the Federal Transit Administration improperly exempted the project from a detailed environmental study and that the city misled the FTA in its application.

The mayor and other supporters of ART say it will provide fast, reliable mass-transit service in a corridor that features large employers and destinations, such as the University of New Mexico. The city and FTA said they followed all of the appropriate environmental laws.