ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Construction on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project officially began Tuesday morning without the usual fanfare for construction work of that size.
It started with crews at University and Central digging to install temporary traffic signals. It’s one of six intersections from Coors to Yale that should see similar work in the coming weeks.
The news came not with the typical lineup of dignitaries with ceremonial shovels in hand, but from a press release and the city’s chief operations officer, Michael Riordan.
“We’re excited to announce the start of ART,” Riordan said.
The project, set to take between 14 and 16 months, had been delayed by a pair of lawsuits from businesses and other community groups opposed to the changes to Central ART is set to bring. Those delays required the city to essentially throw out a plan released in May showing where and when construction would take place. The city is still planning on staying out of places like Nob Hill and near Old Town during the busy holiday shopping season and keeping one lane of Central open each way at all times.
“We want to be a good neighbor,” Riordan said. “Central Avenue is always open so if you want to visit your favorite restaurant please do… please visit twice if you only would’ve done it once in the past.”
The main construction contract for the big work, including tearing out the medians for dedicated bus lanes, is set to be signed shortly.
“The big hullabaloo will probably be next week… that’s the full construction contract,” Riordan said. “[Right now] we’re breaking ground, we’re digging into the right of way of Central and we’re moving forward.”
Efforts to stop ART aren’t totally dead. Those lawsuits continue to work their way through federal court, though a bid for an injunction to halt work initially fell short. There will be a ballot question asking about ART, but it’s polling county voters, not just city voters, and has no legal effect.