Wednesday, January 11, 2006

City to Attempt "End Run" Around Federal Process; Important Meeting at MRCOG on Janaury 12, 2006; Key State and Federal Contact Information

The City has called for a special meeting of the Metropolitan Transportation Board (MTB) of the Mid-Region Council of Governments (MRCOG) this Thursday evening, January 12th, at 5:30 p.m. at MRCOG’s office, 809 Copper Avenue NW (public comment is at the beginning of the meeting, sign-up to speak). The City will be arguing to have the 2025 Regional Transportation Plan amended to allow four general-purpose lanes on Montano and/or will be arguing to have Montano removed from the 2025 plan on the basis that it is “not a regionally significant roadway”.

Our coalition continues to urge concerned citizens to express their feelings on this issue to the MTB and the federal transportation authorities (names and contacts below). Our letters and comments at previous MRCOG meetings have made a difference.

Some key talking points include:

1. As MRCOG’s own staff has repeatedly advised the MTB, utilizing Montano as part of a meaningful transit grid that focuses on moving people rather than on moving cars will bring far greater benefits to all of MRCOG’s member cities and counties than will an additional 2 lanes of single-occupancy vehicles on Montano.

2. The ability to use Montano as a transit corridor will be forever lost if the MTB permits the City to re-stripe now (either directly or by removing Montano’s “regionally significant” designation). It is simply unrealistic to accept the City’s legalistic assurances that they would be willing to revisit the issue of making Montano a transit facility at a future date; first, just look at their indifference to public input when it comes to Montano, and second, there aren’t any examples in the United States where general purpose lanes on a overly-congested roadway were taken away and replaced with transit – it simply hasn’t happened and wouldn’t happen on Montano.

3. The City simply cannot argue that in a metropolitan area with limited bridge crossings and with the explosion of growth on the West Side, that Montano is not “regionally significant.” The fact is that Montano is regionally significant, should remain in the 2025 MTP, and the City must be required follow the federally-mandated procedures for obtaining public input prior to amending the Plan. Using the City’s reasoning, we should remove every river crossing except the Interstates and Paseo del Norte from the regional transportation process on the basis of “not significant”.

4. The City’s “come hell or high water” approach to 4-laning Montano ignores that good faith work that citizens from both sides of the river engaged in recently, which presented a series of viable options (including the very realistic idea of using transit on Montano to connect the West Side to the new commuter rail line at Montano and the railroad tracks) that haven’t yet been fully explored and which, according to independent analysis, will do far more to relieve regional transportation congestion than the City’s unimaginative, 4 general-purpose lane proposal. These options deserve to be explored, particularly given the fact that the urgency for additional lanes on Montano will be substantially dissipated with the opening of the new Coors/I-40 interchange (the City and Councilors from the West Side have argued that Montano was "critical" during the Coors/I-40 construction; since that construction is nearly completed, that argument is irrelevant).

5. The City violated the public trust by its failure to follow the federal process originally. The City knew this process was required prior to paving Universe Boulevard in the middle of the night, and they also knew this process was required prior to re-striping Montano in the middle of the night. This violation of the public trust should not be sanctioned by the MTB by allowing the City to pull an end-run around that process now.

Below is a list of the key federal and state contacts who are or may become involved in the resolution of this issue. Please contact each one of these individuals (and encourage others to as well) to express your concerns. You can also find a list of the MTB members at MRCOG's web site (www.mrcog-nm.gov).

J. Don Martinez
Division Administrator
Federal Highway Administration
604 West San Mateo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
JohnDon.Martinez@fhwa.dot.gov

Joseph W. Maestas
Planning & Program Management Engineer
Federal Highway Administration
604 West San Mateo Road
Santa Fe, NM 87505
(505) 820-2026
Joseph.Maestas@fhwa.dot.gov

Robert C. Patrick
Regional Administrator
Federal Transit Administration, District VI
819 Taylor Street
Room 8A36
Ft. Worth, TX 76102
(817) 978-0550
robert.patrick@fta.dot.gov

Peggy Crist
Community Planner
Federal Transit Administration
819 Taylor Street
Room 8A36
Ft. Worth, TX 76102
(817) 978-0550
Peggy.Crist@fta.dot.gov

Jean E. Manger
Regulatory Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District
4101 Jefferson Plaza, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87109-3435
(505) 342-3216
jean.e.manger@spa02.usace.army.mil
(Note: Ms. Manager has the primary responsibility for reviewing and approving or denying the City's request to amend the original 404 permit that limited the bridge span to 2 driving lanes; the City has requested that the Corps amend this permit to allow up to 4 driving lanes)

Peggy Wade
Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6 Air Planning Section
1445 Ross Avenue
Dallas, TX 75202
(214) 665-7247
wade.peggy@epa.gov

Rhonda Faught
Cabinet Secretary
New Mexico Department of Transportation
1120 Cerrillos Road
P.O. Box 1149
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1149
(505) 827-5110
rhonda.faught@nmshtd.state.nm.us

Katherine Slick
State Historic Preservation Officer
New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs/Historic Preservation Division
228 East Palace Avenue
Santa Fe, NM 87501
(505) 827-6320
katherine.slick@state.nm.us

Mark Sprick
Transportation Planning Services Manager
Mid-Region Council of Governments
809 Copper Avenue, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 724-3633
msprick@mrcog-nm.gov

Chris Blewett
Director of Planning and Transportation Services
Mid-Region Council of Governments
809 Copper Avenue, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87102
(505) 247-1750
cblewett@mrcog-nm.gov