Still No ART Funding

The deadline for the federal government to fund Mayor Richard Berry's $126 million Albuquerque Rapid Transit project has come and gone, and, guess what? The Federal Transit Administration still hasn't approved the project.

That means that the next mayor might have to fill a $69 million budget hole somewhere at City Hall.




The supposed deadline for the FTA to sign off on the project was midnight on Sept. 30, as the new federal fiscal year began on Oct. 1. That deadline was important because, according to President Trump's proposed FY 2018 budget, any FTA transit project not funded in FY 2017 won't get any money in the current fiscal year.

Technically, ART wasn't funded by that deadline.

An FTA spokesperson told me that the ART project still hadn't been funded as of Monday afternoon (Oct. 2) but that the project was still under internal review by the agency.

And Berry's spokesperson, Rhiannon Samuel, said in an email that city and FTA officials met last week and that everything is apparently fine.

"The City had its quarterly meeting last week and FTA is thrilled with progress on project," Samuel said. "The funding remains approved and the grant agreement is expected in the coming months."

I'm not sure what the approved funding she's talking about means. Because right now, there is no approved funding.

Sure, Congress did put $50 million in the FY 2017 budget for ART, but without a funding agreement from the FTA, meaning a contract, that money isn't available.

And besides, the city was hoping to get $69 million from the feds. So even if it somehow gets the money in the "coming months," the city will still be $19 million short of what it expected.

Here's ART's math: The project costs $126 million. Of that, the city had $57 million on hand in previous federal grants and revenue bond money. The rest - $69 million - was supposed to come from the FTA.

ART is now more than 80 percent complete, and so the city has to be getting money from somewhere to pay the contractors beyond the $57 million it had on hand. It is supposedly getting that money from a capital projects fund. But the city has never said exactly which projects are being robbed to pay for ART and which projects would have to be cut or canceled if the $69 million from the feds never shows up.

As it stands now, ART hasn't been approved by the FTA. It looks like the new mayor will have a big financial problem to solve.



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