Monday, November 21, 2005

Public Hearings Concerning Montano

Tonight beginning at 5 p.m. the City Council will be hearing presentations from the authors of several recent studies concerning the Montano corridor. In addition, the Council is expecting public comment concerning the recent finding by the Federal Highway Administration and the Evironmental Protection Agency that the City of Albuquerque violated procedural requirements that should have been taken before the Montano c0rridor was re-striped. Individuals who would like to express their concerns should sign up for the "Public Comment" section of tonight's meeting. To sign up, come to the Vincent E. Griego City Council Chambers at City Hall before 5:15 p.m. and notify Council staff (who sit immediately to the left of the podium). You will be given 2 minutes to state your concerns to the Council at the beginning of the meeting. You need not remain for the rest of the meeting.

Individuals might also be interested in commenting on the City's proposal to amend the 2025 Metropolitan Transportation Plan. That plan, which governs federally-funded roadways within the Albuquerque area as well as those "minor arterials" (including Montano) that have been deemed to be "significant" for the area's transportation grid, requires that the Mid-Region Council of Governments approve any changes to the roads identified in the Plan. The City has asked the MRCOG to amend the 2025 plan to permit 4 general purpose lanes on Montano between Coors and 4th Street. It is the fact that the City unilaterally re-striped most of the corridor (except for the bridge span itself - see below) without first gaining approval from MRCOG that has caused the Federal Highway Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to threaten to cut off all federal funds for roads and transit to all MRCOG members, including the City of Albuquerque.

Prior to making its final determination about whether to approve the City's request to amend the 2025 Plan concerning Montano, MRCOG is required to engage in a public comment period. That period began on November 15 and will continue until the MRCOG's Metropolitan Transportation Board meets on December 15 to make its final decision. Intersted parties may forward their views on this matter to Mr. Mark Sprick, Transportation Planning Services Manager for MRCOG, at 724-3633 or via email at msprick@mrcog-nm.gov. You may also wish to contact Mr. J. Don Martinez, Regional Division Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, in Santa Fe at 505-820-2021 or via email at johndon.martinez@fhwa.dot.gov.

The City has also requested to amend the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permit, which covers the bridge span over the Rio Grande. The City believes that the permit is no longer valid or, if valid, the City wants the permit to be amended to allow 4 general purpose lanes over the bridge. The Corps is NOT required to hold public hearings on the City's amendment request but may elect to do so if there is sufficient public outcry for such hearings. The individual responsible for reviewing the City's 404 Permit amendment request is Jean E. Manger, Regulatory Project Manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ms. Manger may be reached at 342-3216 or via email at Jean.E.Manger@spa02.usace.army.mil.

Because the Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Highway Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are all federal agencies, individuals may wish to contact Rep. Heather Wilson in Albuquerque at 346-6781 or via email at http://wilson.house.gov/Contact.asp; Senator Pete Domenici at 346-6791 or via email at http://domenici.senate.gov/contact/contactform.cfm; and Senator Jeff Bingaman at 346-6601 or via email at senator_bingaman@bingaman.senate.gov.

State officials may also be very concerned about the very real prospect of losing federal highway and transit dollars as a result of the City's actions. Among those who should be contacted are Senator Dede Feldman at 242-1997 or via email at dedefeld@aol.com; Representative Edward Sandoval at (505) 986-4840 or via email at Edward.sandoval@nmlegis.gov; New Mexico Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught at (505) 827-5110 or via email at Rhonda.faught@nmshtd.state.nm.us; and Governor Bill Richardson (who's large highway and construction projects, including the Commuter Rail project, are in jeopardy) at (505) 476-2200 or via email at http://www.governor.state.nm.us/emailchoice.php?mm=6.