Only fully funded transit projects find their way into White House budget
ABQ Could Be Left with $69 Million Hole in Central Avenue
The Trump administration may just have thrown Mayor Richard Berry’s $126 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project under the bus.
Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget, which was released Thursday, does not contain the $69 million Federal Transit Administration grant the mayor has repeatedly said is coming.
Officials at the FTA said that if ART does not appear on the current list of “fully funded” projects, it’s won’t get any more federal money.
That would put the City of Albuquerque – taxpayers, Berry and the City Council – in a real bind, both politically and financially.
Because Congress couldn’t agree on a budget for the current budget year, the U.S. government is currently being funded on an extension of the FY 2016 budget. It’s possible a deal in Congress could be struck between now and Oct. 1 to find the money for ART and other transit projects like it.
Or, more likely, Congress may simply be content to fund the government at current levels through Sept. 30. “A lot of people don’t like doing that, but it’s a possibility,” said a congressional staffer who asked not to be identified.
Bottom line: If Congress doesn’t act, the $69 million promised by the Obama administration vanishes.
That would leave the State of New Mexico, Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque as possible sources to patch up Central, finish ART and buy the buses needed to see the mayor’s bus transit dream come true.
Here’s what Rhiannon Samuel, a spokesperson for Berry, said early Thursday afternoon:
“Based off our best understanding today, we are in no different of a situation than we were before. Our goal is, and continues to be included in the congress approved FY17 Budget. We have strong support from our congressional delegation as we have positive, ongoing conversations with them and representatives from the DOT and the FTA. There is no new information today that leads us to believe that this project won’t be included in the 2017 budget. The professionals have repeatedly reported to us that no time in the history of the small starts grant has a city not been funded, especially if their project is already underway.”
While the the state’s congressional delegation, or at least four of them, may support ART, they’re Democrats.
Republicans control Congress and New Mexico’s only GOP representative, is on record as opposing projects like ART.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press.