ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Just six days into the start of service for Albuquerque Rapid Transit, the city is already looking at repairing damage to three different buses involved in three different crashes.
As of Thursday evening, two of the city’s 20 ART buses had suffered major damage, while a third bus received minor damage.
Newly released bus surveillance video shows the first crash that took place along Central near 52nd Street on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the city, a red pickup truck made an illegal left turn in front of an eastbound ART bus that was moving at a higher speed.
The damage was pretty significant to the windshield and the entrance door, and underneath on the bumper side,” said Alicia Manzano, a spokeswoman for the ART bus program. “I believe the driver actually hit the bus twice in the process, so there was significant damage to the bus and we had to tow the bus out.”
That major crash near 52nd Street was followed by another, but less serious crash along the ART route Wednesday near Louisiana. The city says that minor crash didn’t require the involved bus to be pulled out of service.
Since the first two crashes Wednesday, a third crash happened Thursday.
An ART bus was involved in a crash at Central and Monroe Street, east of Washington on Thursday afternoon. The city says the driver of a black sedan with Florida license plates wrongfully got in front of the ART bus, thinking the bus-only lane was the left-turn lane.
“We’re just very grateful that no one significantly injured in this accident,” said Manzano said.
The bus involved in the Thursday crash also had to be towed away. The city hasn’t given an estimate yet of how long the bus will be out of service, or how much the damage will cost to fix.
“We know its going to take some time to get used to this new traffic process,” Manzano said.
The crashes and damage aren’t unexpected for the city. Mayor Tim Keller predicted roadway conflicts as the service launched on Saturday morning.
“We know that unfortunately there’s going to be accidents, there’s going to be people who continue to try and make left-hand turns,” Keller said. “It’s not worth it.”
Even with the major crashes Wednesday and Thursday, for now, the city is simply asking drivers to stay out of the ART lanes. It may be a while before the city will consider installing new permanent barriers, such as curbs.
“For the next six months it’s going to be an evaluation of how everything is running in the corridor, what tweaks we need to make,” said Manzano after the first ART crash Wednesday. “(Barriers are) absolutely going to be one that we’ll continue to look into for the safety of drivers.”