High speed bus plans delay Central Ave. construction

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – From re-paving to re-landscaping and total re-design there are big plans for a lot of parts of Central, but some city councilors say they’re fed up because their plans are on hold for a project they say may never happen.

Central and Rio Grande is example of a stretch of Central the city wants to rebuild but one councilor says they’re going nowhere in the planning because of the city’s hope for a fast bus system.

For four years, the city has had a big idea for changing Albuquerque’s bus service.

“My hope is that in the second term as Mayor, I will be able to cut the ribbon on the first major segment of bus rapid transit,” said Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry in a March 2014 press announcement.

If you ask the people who are designing it, they say they’re working hard.

“Actually we’re moving at a fairly quick pace, especially for a federally involved project,” said Rick DeReyes, a spokesman for ABQ Ride.

ABQ Ride hopes to start bus rapid transit (BRT) service by Fall 2017. If it happens, BRT would likely travel in dedicated bus-only lanes along 13 miles of Central between 98th street and Tramway.

“We want to make sure that we have all of this in a row,” said DeReyes.

However, there is still no final design to show exactly how BRT will change the format of Central Avenue.

“No, we’re nowhere near that yet, but before we have a final design we still need to get the public’s input,” said DeReyes.

While the city continues to plan for BRT, the time delay it has made some city councilors frustrated.

“The fact is, it’s been in the works now for a long, long time and it seems to me by now we ought to know what it’s supposed to look like,” said Albuquerque city councilor Isaac Benton.

“I don’t think we can have these kind of delays any longer,” said Albuquerque city councilor Klarissa Peña.

Peña wants to re-do medians on Central Avenue near Old Coors Boulevard.

“It’s going to help us encourage businesses to come to the west side as well and I think that’s critical,” said Peña

However, the work she wants to see happen has been put on hold because of years of different failed rapid transit ideas.

“I think we just need to proceed because this has been maybe now going on 25 years of waiting for some kind of transit, rapid transit on west Central,” said Peña.

The city is also waiting on redeveloping Rio Grande and Lomas’ intersections with Central. Councilor Isaac Benton says he too is tired of the wait, saying the intersections are dangerous and unpleasant as they are currently designed.

“Without that knowledge it’s hard to move forward and you feel like you should not move forward because you don’t want to throw money away, throw design money away,” said Benton.

At this point though, the city is asking for patience. It hopes to have mock-ups for Central’s BRT line by the end of the year.

“We are fairly close to figuring out things. but it’s very complicated process,” said DeReyes.

Another project that’s been put off because of BRT is repaving Central east of the intersection with University. That won’t be done either until a final design is approved.

The city says the next big step for Central Avenue BRT is to get public comment in October. The city hopes to submit another design plan to the feds by the end of the year. After that the city says the project will still need to undergo further design review.

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