ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — No one stood on a chair Thursday night, but there was plenty of shouting and anger.
For the second time in two days, executives from City Hall faced skepticism as they answered questions from the public about Albuquerque Rapid Transit – a $119 million plan to build a network of canopy-covered stations and bus-only lanes down Central Avenue.
But it wasn’t quite as heated as Wednesday’s meeting, when people repeatedly shouted one another down, and one opponent stood on a chair to make his point.
The city still got an earful Thursday. Residents said they fear the project will push traffic away from Central and into more-residential streets like Lead and Coal. They wanted to know how businesses would survive the construction period. And plenty of people had pointed questions about the project’s design and potential to attract riders.
The city offered answers to each question – arguing there’s enough traffic capacity on nearby streets, for example – though the crowd didn’t seem satisfied.
Michelle Heath, a 32-year-old legal assistant who works in Nob Hill, had a practical question: How are people going to parallel park along Central when there’s only one lane of traffic, without causing a backup?
She noted that she’s a “millennial,” the generation that supporters say is hungry for mass transit.
“I’m basically the target demographic,” Heath said, “and I think this is a very bad idea.”
Many audience members wanted to know if the project is a “done deal.”Chris Sanchez, left, wears a protest sign as he and Chris Fairchild, right, both with Victory Hill Neighborhood Association, pass out anti-ART signs during a public meeting about the proposed Albuquerque Rapid Transit project on Central at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Thursday, February 25, 2016. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)
Michael Riordan, the city’s chief operations officer, said the City Council has already approved city money for the project and President Barack Obama has recommended federal funding. The mayoral administration believes it can start construction in May without another City Council vote.
Pete Dinelli – a former city councilor who lost a campaign to unseat Mayor Richard Berry in 2013 – pointed out that any councilor could introduce a resolution ordering a halt to the project.
But City Councilor Pat Davis, who represents the Nob Hill area, where Thursday’s meeting was held, told the crowd that he thinks such a proposal would fail. It would need six of nine council votes to overcome a veto by Berry, he said, and the council approved funding last year without opposition.
Davis joined the council in December, well after the vote to approve funding.
Riordan, for his part, pledged to have another meeting dedicated only to public comments and questions. Thursday’s meeting was held at Immanuel Presbyterian Church, and the room appeared to be filled to its 175-person capacity.
By: Dan McKay (Albuquerque Journal)
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