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First phase of work on ART starts

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Construction of Albuquerque Rapid Transit will begin today with the installation of temporary traffic signals at about a half-dozen locations throughout the nine-mile route.

The work signifies the beginning of a 14- to 16-month project to build a network of bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue, between Louisiana and Coors.

Just 10 days ago, a federal appeals court lifted a temporary injunction that had prohibited the start of construction. Opponents, however, are still fighting the project, and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals hasn’t made a final decision on their lawsuit. Their appeal can continue even as construction begins.

Michael Riordan, Albuquerque’s chief operations officer, said the Federal Transit Administration, which is providing most of the funding for the $119 million project, is “comfortable proceeding” with construction.

“This is a direct result of five years of hard work and due diligence,” Riordan said, “and it’s a moment in time that’s going to lead to a great project. It’s great to say that ART is under construction.”

He doesn’t expect drivers to encounter any lane reductions until October, at least not ones caused by Albuquerque Rapid Transit work.

The water authority, however, already is tearing up parts of the street as it works on utility lines ahead of the ART construction.

Installation of the temporary signals is necessary, Riordan said, because crews eventually will take down the old traffic lights in some spots as they rebuild sidewalks and build bus stations. The temporary signals will guide drivers until the new ones are up.

Congress, meanwhile, has not yet granted final approval for a $69 million grant that’s critical to carrying out the project.

But city officials say they do have federal approval to begin spending money to get started, with reimbursement to come later.

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