Appeals court sides with Albuquerque in rapid transit case

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP, KRQE) – Albuquerque has won another legal ruling as it proceeds with construction of a bus rapid transit system.

In a 57-page opinion Tuesday, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower-court ruling that allowed construction of the $119 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project to proceed.

Crews already are building a nine-mile network of bus-only lanes and bus stations in the middle of Central Avenue.

Critics say the construction will likely create traffic jams in one of the city’s busiest areas.

Some business owners say the project would spark traffic congestion and ruin the car-friendly persona of the largest urban stretch of Route 66 in the nation.

Rapid Transit officials say the traffic isn’t ideal, but drivers should figure how to avoid the area as construction progresses.

It may be the final blow for people hoping to stop the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project before it’s too late.

With ART construction in full swing and Central Avenue already torn up, ART adversaries wanted the project to come to a screeching halt, but it will not. Those who feel like they’ve been thrown under the bus by the City of Albuquerque may have to get used to looking at the bus.

Gilbert Montano, chief of staff for the city, said, “What this means is it allows us to continue to move forward.”

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit out of Denver looked at concerns raised by ART opponents at the federal district court level over the summer including traffic tie-ups, safety fears, the loss of business, and the aesthetic and cultural loss on old Route 66.

The three-panel federal appeals court agreed with the district court’s ruling that, “Plaintiffs have not demonstrated the asserted harms are irreparable.”

Joseph Millard, assistant manager at Astro-Zombies Comic Shop, is an opponent of ART.

“There’d be that glimmer of hope. We would always hold out a little bit, but we’d never expected anything,” he said of the latest ruling.

“Most businesses here have reported decreases business, sales. Yeah, it’s been pretty big of a bummer,” Millard told KRQE News 13.

“We understand the disruption that the construction, the temporary construction, will cause. However, we want to let people know there will always be at least one lane of traffic open along Central each and every day,” Montano said.

“This is certainly long term that’s both hopeful for the Central Corridor but also can bolster the entire city for a world class transportation project,” he said.

KRQE News 13 also spoke with the attorney representing ART opponents. Yolanda Gallegos said they are disappointed with the decision, noting the Federal Transit Administration, which gave the city an exemption, is still continuing its environmental evaluation. The next step is to ask for a rehearing before the 10th Circuit. She indicated by phone it’s too soon to say what their next step may be.

For now, the case is remanded back to federal district court.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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