Tenth Circuit Lets Route 66 Project Proceed

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) — The 10th Circuit on Tuesday affirmed that Albuquerque may build a $119 million rapid transit bus system along Central Avenue, a historic stretch of what was once Route 66.

Citizens and business opponents argued that the bus lines will disrupt dozens of businesses, snarl traffic and impede pedestrians, and that the city already has three bus lines along Central Avenue, so the system is unnecessary.

They also claimed that the Albuquerque Rapid Transit, or ART project, will affect or destroy at least 48 sites on Route 66 that are on the National Historic Registry.

A federal judge refused to issue an injunction in July, so the Coalition of Concerned Citizens to Make ART Smart, et al., appealed to the 10th Circuit.

U.S. Circuit Judge Mary Beck Briscoe wrote for the panel that the ART opponents failed to prove that stopping construction would be in the public interest, or that the lead defendant Federal Transit Administration improperly granted an exemption from rules requiring a detailed environmental assessment.

Nor did the opponents present sufficient evidence that FTA or co-defendant City Council had violated environmental or national historic preservation laws. In fact, in consultation with the state historic preservation officer, the city redesigned three of the new bus stations to reduce the visual impact, “because of the historic significance and integrity of the surrounding neighborhood,” Briscoe wrote.

The FTA told the circuit panel during oral arguments that it had not yet approved a $69 million “Small Starts” grant that is crucial to financing construction, and that Congress had not yet adopted a budget that would fund the grant.

Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Timothy Tymkovich and Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Bobby Baldock joined Briscoe on the panel. They affirmed the denial of a preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings.

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