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Mayor Tim Keller: Our Hard Work to Secure ART Funding Paid Off

City to Recoup $75 million in Federal Funds for the ART Project

In a news conference on Aug. 21, Mayor Tim Keller announced that his administration’s work to secure Federal Transit Administration Funding for the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project was successful and the City will be awarded $75 million in increments through the Small Starts Program. Previous federal budget uncertainty and initial application and design issues left funding in limbo for almost a year after funding was initially portrayed as a certainty in 2017.

Though the majority of the project was already constructed, federal funding remained uncertain until this week. Since Mayor Keller took office, City officials have worked diligently to revise the application for the Small Starts Program and kept in close contact with the FTA to update the agency on recent developments.

“Our team invested time, sweat and energy into recouping our City’s funds for building the ART project, and now we have word from the Federal Transit Administration that a big portion of the federal funding is on the way,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “This outcome alleviates the burden of having to cover the cost of the project with City funds or new tax dollars. This project has been a long road for our city and frankly we’ve had to clean up a big mess. There is still a ways to go, but at least now we can balance the books with our residents’ tax dollars restored.”

Earlier this year, the City coordinated with New Mexico’s federal delegation to ensure the Small Starts Program funding was included in this year’s federal budget.

“As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I worked to ensure the federal government lived up to its funding commitments so that ART does not become a financial burden. Now, the city can move forward and focus on getting ART operational and connecting people to opportunities throughout Albuquerque. I stand ready to work with Mayor Keller, the City Council and all of our communities in the future,” Senator Tom Udall said.

At a press conference announcing the funding, a representative from Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office read the following statement from the Congresswoman, “I am proud to have worked so closely with Mayor Keller and his office to ensure that the ART project did not become a costly liability for Albuquerque taxpayers. This federal reimbursement is a testament to the work and strong partnership of all the stakeholders involved and ensures that the city has the flexibility to invest in other infrastructure programs that improve our transportation system and create jobs. Despite the numerous and serious issues associated with this project, we were able to work together with community members and the congressional delegation to find a solution for the people we represent. Moving forward we must continue to work collaboratively to leverage every opportunity and federal investment to improve the quality of life for Albuquerque residents and promote economic development. I thank Mayor Keller for his commitment to not only securing this critical transit system funding and for his focus on making ART a meaningful project that works for the city, especially since his administration inherited numerous complicated challenges.”

Since taking office, Mayor Keller has been transparent about the challenges facing ART, including the fact that funding was never guaranteed under the previous administration. Mayor Keller appointed new Transit Director Bernie Toon to oversee salvaging the inherited project. Together, they have delivered periodic updates on ART in an effort to keep the community informed about the progress of the project.

“We have worked tirelessly to make the best out of the project we inherited, and this funding announcement shows that the hours we spent securing the federal funding paid off,” said Albuquerque Transit Department Director Bernie Toon. “Though the project still faces some uphill battles as we work to get it up and running, we are pleased we can focus on making it work for folks in our city.”

Earlier this year, Mayor Tim Keller encouraged everyone to return to Central when major construction along the route came to a close. In addition, the City has secured funding from a small group of other federal grants meant to complete the funding for the project.

Currently, bus drivers are undergoing a 12 to 14-week training to learn how to use the ART corridor and the bus platforms. While buses are on the training routes, the City is working on the timing of the lights and driver education, so traffic patterns are as safe and efficient as possible. The Albuquerque Transit Department will also release a public education campaign to help Albuquerque drivers and pedestrians stay safe and ensure they are equipped with the information needed to use the new traffic lanes and transportation platforms.

The City has worked with BYD, the bus manufacturer, to address the battery life issues with the specialized buses previously purchased for the route, and has secured a commitment from the company to install charging stations at each end of the ART route.  If BYD, the bus manufacturer, honors their latest commitments, initial services are expected this winter.