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Time Running Out For ART Funding

Time Running Out For ART Funding

If ART doesn't get the funding agreement by Saturday, there is a chance it won't ever be funded.

Time is running out for Mayor Richard Berry to get approval from the Federal Transit Administration for Albuquerque Rapid Transit Project and the $69 million the city had hoped to get from the feds.
As of Sept. 22, the FTA had still not approved the project, which is now more than 70 percent complete. And if the FTA doesn’t approve the project by Sept. 30, the next mayor could be scrambling to fill a $69 million budget hole.
Here’s the situation:
The current federal fiscal year, FY 2017, ends on Sept. 30. President Trump’s proposed FY 2018 budget contains no money for FTA transit projects that don’t already have a funding agreement. If ART doesn’t get the funding agreement by Saturday, there is a chance it won’t ever be funded.
Again, that would mean the city would have to find up to $69 million that it was hoping to get from the feds.
Here’s the math:
The cost of ART, when adjusted for inflation, is $126.2 million. Of that, $69 million, or 55 percent, is supposed to come from the FTA. The rest, $57.2 million, or 45 percent, is coming from previous federal grants and local tax money the city has.
ABQ Free Press asked the FTA in early September, and again on Sept. 22, whether the agency had approved ART. Both times an FTA spokesperson said the project was under internal review and had not been approved for funding.
In a Sept. 8 email to ABQ Free Press, the FTA spokesperson said:
“The President’s Budget for FY 2018 proposed to limit funding for the CIG program to projects with existing construction grant agreements only; it includes no funding for new CIG projects, and thus project sponsors that do not yet have construction grant agreements acknowledge they are undertaking additional work at their own risk which may not receive CIG funding. Congress has not yet enacted FY 2018 appropriations.”
On Sept. 8, ABQ Free Press emailed Berry spokesperson Rhiannon Samuel about the fact that the FTA had still not approved ART. She responded that the city had been told by the FTA that the approval for ART would be coming in September.
The FTA spokesperson did not respond to a Free Press question about whether ART funding was imminent.
Congress has approved an FY17 budget that includes $50 million for ART, but again, the FTA has yet to approve the project. And if the city were to get the $50 million, that would still leave it short by $19 million of what it had hoped to get this year.
With ART more than 70 percent completed, the city has theoretically used up all its previous federal grant and city money for the project. The city has never answered Free Press questions about what money is being used to pay ART contractors beyond the $57 million that the city originally had on hand for the project.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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Albuquerque’s definitive alternative newspaper publishing an inquisitive, modern approach to the news and entertainment stories that matter most to New Mexicans. ABQ Free Press’ fresh voice speaks to insightful and involved professionals who care deeply about our community.