Lawyer: 'Irreversible' Work Along Central Not Allowed
Court still has to decide whether to hear opponents’ appeal
City Councilors Introduce measures to slow ART project
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals gave the city permission to begin pre-construction work—things like surveying and other non-destructive work—on the Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project.
But the court left in place its temporary injunction against the city from beginning to build the project itself while it decides whether to hear an appeal by ART opponents.
Attorney Yolanda Gallegos, who represents ART opponents, said the court issued its short order late Tuesday. “I think the court is saying, ‘We are willing to let the city go forward with pre-construction activity, but we are not going to let you do anything irreversible,’”Gallegos said.
On Monday, the appellate court granted an emergency motion from ART opponents and barred the city from beginning ART construction until further notice and until the court decides how to proceed on the plaintiffs’ appeal.
The city had asked the court on Tuesday to modify its earlier order.
Meanwhile, Gallegos said the Federal Transit Administration is in the process of re-evaluating its decision to give the city a exemption from having to do an environmental study about ART’s impact on the historic neighborhoods adjacent to Central Avenue along ART’s route. During a three-day court hearing last week, ART opponents argued that the FTA erred in granting the city the “categorical exclusion” from having to do an environmental study.
Attorneys for the FTA argued that the CE was properly granted because there were no significant environmental controversies surrounding the project.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales declined to issue a preliminary injunction to stop ART. Opponents then appealed his decision to the Tenth Circuit.
UPDATED MONDAY WITH CITY COUNCIL DEVELOPMENTS
ART opponents got a boost from two city councilors who say they want ART to be slowed down.
Councilor Diane Gibson introduced a resolution at Monday night’s City Council meeting to put the project to a public vote on Nov. 8. And Councilor Ken Sanchez wants to pause ART construction until the city can work with business owners along Central Avenue to ensure that customers will have improved access to their businesses during construction.
Gibson said that city residents she talks with are concerned about the project’s federal financing and the fact that the city probably won’t get anywhere near the $80 million it originally wanted for the project. “That erodes confidence a little bit, and frankly, people throughout Albuquerque are concerned about that,” Gibson said. “They are also asking why they didn’t get a voice in this matter.”
Gibson added she introduced her legislation “so people can express their opinions and be heard.”
Sanchez’s resolution calls for a moratorium on ART construction until the administration addresses the concerns of business owners about reduced left-hand-turn lanes and reduced on-street parking along the route.
By City Council rules, neither of the resolutions were voted on Monday night. But Gibson said she is hoping for an expedited hearing on her resolution. Even if it were to pass, there is a question about whether there is enough time to get it on the November ballot.
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