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Rt. 66 Historically Worthless?

Rt. 66 Historically Worthless?

Feds, Consultant Concluded Mother Road lacks 'historical integrity'

No consideration given to ART’s impact on historic neighborhoods

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

In the city’s push to get a federal grant for its Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, a determination was made that Central Avenue, or Route 66, didn’t have any “historical integrity.”

It meant there were no long, or short continuous stretches of the street that were examples of the architecture that predominated the glory days of the Mother Road through Albuquerque.

The finding was key in that it allowed the city to avoid having to do a full study of how ART might affect historical neighborhoods near Central, and it helped clear the way for the city to get a $69 million “Small Starts” grant for ART from the Federal Transit Administration.

But the determination that Route 66 through Albuquerque had no historical integrity wasn’t made by a panel of Albuquerque citizens or an independent panel of architectural and historical experts; it was made by an employee of an engineering consulting firm hired by the city’s transit department who was supervised by the FTA.

The engineering firm was Parsons Brinkerhoff and its employee was Jeff Fredine, who testified Wednesday in a hearing on two federal court lawsuits that seek to stop ART. Fredine’s job was to survey the stretch of Central along ART’s proposed route to determine if there were any buildings that could qualify to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. A finding that a building did qualify for the federal register could have meant a delay in the FTA’s decision to fund the project.

Related story:

In court Wednesday, the owner of Scalo Northern Italian Grill, 3500 Central Ave. SE, testified that ART will lead to layoffs at his iconic Nob Hill restaurant. A projected 50 percent reduction in business that will come during ART construction “is unsurvivable,” Steve Paternoster told the court .

Find that story here.

But Fredine wasn’t allowed to look at every building along the 8.75-mile stretch of the ART route; he was only allowed to examine buildings where ART stations would be. That limitation was set by the FTA, Fredine said. And he testified that he did not look at what effect the increase in auto traffic on historic neighborhoods around Central would be—traffic caused by reducing general vehicular traffic on Central to one lane in each direction in order to accommodate two dedicated bus lanes.

The FTA’s big concern, Fredine said, was how canopies above ART stations in historic neighborhoods would affect the “view shed” from buildings along the street. When asked if he ever addressed the effect of increased traffic in historic neighborhoods, Fredine replied, “No, it was primarily about the canopies.”

Attorneys for ART opponents suggested in their questioning of Fredine that the failure to study the effect of traffic in those historic neighborhoods was a violation of the federal National Environmental Policy Act, which they said requires officials to study the effects of large transit projects on human beings who live near them.

The key to Fredine’s testimony was a phrase—area of potential effect—that drew the intense interest of U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales, who is hearing arguments for a preliminary injunction against ART. Once an APE is determined, studies regarding a project’s impact on historical structures, places and neighborhoods can begin. Fredine was called to testify, in part, because Gonzales wanted to know how the APE for ART was set.

Under cross examination from attorneys John Boyd and John McCall, Fredine said it was the FTA that wound up determining that ART would have no effect on buildings along Central. “The FTA determines the potential effect to properties,” Fredine said. “In this case they did it themselves.”

Fredine said he partially based his conclusion that Route 66 through Albuquerque had no historical integrity on a 1993 study of the road through New Mexico. That study found that the road’s nature was changing because of urbanization and that it was losing much of his architectural link to the past.

But under questioning from Boyd, Fredine conceded that the 1993 study was more concerned about Route 66 in rapidly urbanizing areas in rural parts of the state. When Boyd pointed out that the study recommended that cities like Grants, Gallup, Santa Rosa,Tucumcari and Albuquerque preserve their sections of the road, Fredine conceded that that was the case.

Boyd also pointed out that Route 66 in Albuquerque has been designated a national historic byway by the National Park Service and a national scenic byway by the Federal Highway Administration. When asked if he had consulted with those agencies about ART’s potential effect on the street, Fredine replied that he hadn’t.

The hearing continues today.

 

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.
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  • Pete Dinelli
    July 28, 2016, 9:47 pm

    I had an opportunity to sit through most of the two day preliminary injunction hearing to stop the ART bus project. “It is going to be a disaster” pretty well sums up the testimony of Steve Paternoster regarding ART. Listening to Steve Paternoster, the owner of Scalo’s Restaurant, Doug Peterson, whose family owns numerous commercial properties along central, and Steve Schroeder, the small business owner of Nob Hill Records, I was genuinely struck by their sincerity and love for our community and the Nob Hill area. All three testified about the uniqueness of Nob Hill, the struggles and the progress made in the area and the significant irreparable harm ART will have on Nob Hill and Route 66 in general. Maria Bautista also testified emotionally and eloquently about the cultural and historic significance of Route 66 and how it is a part of Albuquerque past that must be preserved. ART without question will cause irreparable damage and injury to businesses and the surrounding residential areas. What bothers me is how the Mayor and City Council totally ignored their constituents, refused to put it on the ballot and forced people to go to court.

    REPLY
  • Ed Klein
    July 29, 2016, 4:40 pm

    Issue 1: "But the determination that Route 66 through Albuquerque had no historical integrity wasn’t made by a panel of Albuquerque citizens or an independent panel of architectural and historical experts; it was made by an employee of an engineering consulting firm hired by the city’s transit department who was supervised by the FTA." (Glad there were historical experts there to assist – oh wait…)

    Issue 2: "Fredine’s job was to survey the stretch of Central along ART’s proposed route to determine if there were any buildings that could qualify to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places… But Fredine wasn’t allowed to look at every building along the 8.75-mile stretch of the ART route; he was only allowed to examine buildings where ART stations would be. That limitation was set by the FTA," (What does that total up to be – a mile???)

    Issue 3: "…he testified that he did not look at what effect the increase in auto traffic on historic neighborhoods around Central would be—traffic caused by reducing general vehicular traffic on Central to one lane in each direction in order to accommodate two dedicated bus lanes." (It will kill the businesses and neighborhoods – anyone can take a guess at that result)

    Issue 4: "“The FTA determines the potential effect to properties,” Fredine said. “In this case they did it themselves.” (The government monitoring the government)

    Issue 5: "Fredine said he partially based his conclusion that Route 66 through Albuquerque had no historical integrity on a 1993 study of the road through New Mexico." (1993?!?!?!?)

    Issue 6: "Boyd also pointed out that Route 66 in Albuquerque has been designated a national historic byway by the National Park Service and a national scenic byway by the Federal Highway Administration. When asked if he had consulted with those agencies about ART’s potential effect on the street, Fredine replied that he hadn’t." ("At this point, what does it matter….?")

    I mean – it might have been easier to just copy and paste the whole damn article in here. This is a joke. It is like a politicians monitoring themselves and doing an internal investigation on corrupt and illegal practices only to find out they did nothing wrong!!

    Route 66 in ABQ will die historically if the ART project gets approved any further. ABQ cares less about Route 66 and only cares about the college and any ‘new’ business it can bring down Central Ave. Yet, you have thousands upon thousands or tourists who travel Central Ave (Route 66) every year so screw them I guess. I can promise you there will be a great deal of backlash against ABQ and visitors either bypassing Central or boycotting ABQ altogether as this is a really dumb move on the governments part. A really, really dumb move. I for one have no problem taking I-40 around ABQ if this happens….

    Ed
    Route 66 World

    REPLY
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