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ART project is now on the clock to finish in 16 months

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Bradbury Stamm is on the clock.

Mayor Richard Berry’s administration signed an $82.6 million contract Wednesday that calls for the local construction company to finish work on Albuquerque Rapid Transit in 16 months, or by late 2017. The city is entitled to damages of $2,500 a day if the work isn’t done on time, city officials said.

Heavy demolition and disruptions along a nine-mile stretch of Central Avenue are expected to begin in mid-October as Bradbury Stamm puts hundreds of people to work building a network of bus-only lanes and bus stations between Louisiana and Coors.

Berry said he hopes the project will reach “substantial completion” by the time he leaves office. His second four-year term as mayor ends Nov. 30 next year.

He announced the signing of the construction contract during a 45-minute news conference that featured 14 speakers, including business owners, city councilors and the heads of business associations.

It was a celebration of sorts after the project survived litigation aimed at preventing the start of construction. Opponents also filled a series of public meetings earlier this year and shouted down city officials supporting the project.

Nevertheless, the decision to move forward with Albuquerque Rapid Transit won support on a 7-2 vote of the City Council earlier this year, and it’s remained a priority of the mayor.

“This is a landmark day for the city of Albuquerque,” Berry said as a few dozen workers wearing yellow and orange safety vests stood behind him at Bradbury Stamm’s headquarters in the North Valley.

“It’s not just a bus,” he said. “It’s our future.”

The $82.6 million contract with Bradbury Stamm covers the bulk of the construction work. City officials say it guarantees a maximum price, unless the city asks for extra work.

The project overall is still expected to cost about $119 million when the cost of design, buying buses and other work is added in. Most of the money comes from the federal government.

Congress has not yet granted final approval to fund a $69 million “Small Starts” grant that’s critical to the financing.

Bradbury Stamm pens and an ART contract sit on a table at Wednesday’s media event that kicked off the project. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Bradbury Stamm pens and an ART contract sit on a table at Wednesday’s media event that kicked off the project. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

But Michael Riordan, Albuquerque’s chief operations officer, said the city has received approval from the Federal Transit Administration to begin construction and that no project at a similar stage has ever failed to receive the funding.

Cynthia Schultz, CEO of Bradbury Stamm, said she expects the project to employ the equivalent of 300 full-time workers over the next year. About 1,000 people altogether might work on it in some way, she said.

The construction contract gives Bradbury Stamm about 480 days to complete the work, or almost 16 months, though officials said they hope to finish in the 14- to 16-month range.

The city plans to issue an official “notice to proceed” that starts the clock Wednesday or today.

Supporters at Wednesday’s news conference said they expect Albuquerque Rapid Transit to spur redevelopment along the Central Avenue corridor and provide faster, more reliable service than the regular bus system. The project is designed to mimic light rail, but at a fraction of the cost.

Opponents, meanwhile, say the project will damage the car-friendly charm of what was once Route 66. They say the creation of bus-only lanes – reducing the capacity for general traffic – will create congestion and harm local businesses.

Later Wednesday, the City Council adopted a resolution calling for the city to convene a summit of merchants and property owners along the rapid-transit route to discuss parking, ridership projections and other matters. The meeting must happen by Oct. 1.

“We need to keep this dialogue open,” said Councilor Ken Sanchez, who sponsored the bill.

Riordan, meanwhile, told city councilors that the ART system might cost an extra $2.2 million a year to operate, though federal funding and other sources might offset that.
In other action
The City Council:

  • Scheduled a zoning hearing for Oct. 17 on a dispute over plans to build a garbage transfer station at Edith and Comanche NE.
  • Passed an ordinance granting the city auditor authority over the hiring and firing of employees in his or her office, a move intended to strengthen the independence of the auditor.