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Compromise reached for wider Nob Hill sidewalks

City Councilor Pat Davis

City Councilor Pat Davis

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — City Councilor Pat Davis has reached a compromise with Mayor Richard Berry’s administration on the widening of sidewalks for several Nob Hill businesses not slated to get them as part of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction.

Davis has withdrawn a resolution he introduced previously that would have required the sidewalks to be expanded as part of the ART project. In its place, he substituted a measure that reserves $500,000 from his set-aside funding for design and construction of the sidewalks after ART has been completed.

The revised resolution addresses a major concern that Michael Riordan, the city’s chief operations officer, had raised, namely that requiring the sidewalk widening at this point would delay the completion of ART by four to six months.

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“This works, and it doesn’t prolong our ART construction,” Davis said. He said it puts money in reserve to continue evaluating sidewalk expansion along Central from Girard to Washington so that if a solution is found, there’s funding to get the project done.

City councilors deferred action on the substitute resolution. It is scheduled to be taken up again at the April 17 Council meeting.

The bill would also require the administration to come up with $600,000 in transit funds to complete the International District Station near the San Pedro Drive and Central Avenue intersection. And it would require the city to use existing funds to produce plans and consult with businesses to restore pedestrian crossings removed in Nob Hill.

Both of those projects would also take place after ART construction is completed.

ART will transform Central Avenue into a rapid transit corridor with a nine-mile stretch of bus-only lanes and bus stations. Davis introduced his initial bill in response to complaints from Nob Hill business owners who said they supported the project after receiving assurances from the city that they would be provided wider sidewalks.

Some business owners have also complained that the loan program promised to small businesses along the ART route has not yet materialized.

Berry told the Journal on Wednesday that a foundation has agreed to make a significant contribution to the loan fund and that a separate non-profit will administer the loan program.

The Council approved a resolution on Monday that lays the groundwork for the foundation’s contribution.

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Berry said that with the Council’s action, the administration will move forward on finalizing the agreements. He said he is hoping to make an announcement about the loan program next week.

“We are making progress,” he said.

Deirdre Firth, deputy director of the city’s Economic Development Department, told the Council on Monday that the city is expecting to receive its first applications for that program within 10 days. She said the goal is to get more than $1 million into the loan fund.

“What we’ve been able to put together so far is in excess of $600,000,” she said.

In response to questions about what would happen if the expected Small Starts federal grant for the project doesn’t materialize, Riordan said he’s still hopeful that the funding will come through. But if it doesn’t, he said, Plan B would be to tap into other federal monies to cover the cost.

Riordan said that regardless of what happens with the federal funding, the city has enough cash on hand to complete the project.

“The project will be completed this calendar year,” he said.

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