Route 66 in Albuquerque is site of fight over rapid transit

AP News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2016 3:16 PM
Route 66 in Albuquerque is site of fight over rapid transit

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to build a system of express buses and canopy-covered stations along historic Route 66 in Albuquerque is drawing opposition from shop owners.

Some business owners fear the $119 million project could cost them customers and eventually their livelihoods because the plan risks destroying the historic charm of the popular area, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://goo.gl/eVTrRO ) on Sunday.

"This is something that's going to ruin one of our cultural jewels, our reputation and our tourism," Nob Hill Music owner Steve Schroeder said.

Mayor Richard Berry said the project is an investment that will spur development along the corridor and get people on buses that will mimic light rail.

"This is something that we've studied extensively with some of the best transit minds in the world," Berry said, "They tell us it's going to be a net positive, or we wouldn't be doing it."

Under the plan, pedestrians would enjoy wider sidewalks and new landscaping, and the bus would offer free Wi-Fi to passengers.

Transit stations would be in the middle of the road. Passengers would buy their tickets at kiosks, reducing the amount of time the bus has to wait for people to board.

Jean Bernstein, CEO of Flying Star Cafes and Satellite Coffee, said business owners don't believe the project will create the economic boost promised.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday it had included Albuquerque's $69 million project in its 2017 budget.

In the 1920s, Route 66 brought together existing local and state roads from Chicago through St. Louis to Los Angeles. Small towns opened shops, motels and gas stations to pump revenue into local economies just as the nation's car culture took off.

In Albuquerque, city officials have been working to revive portions of Route 66 that have become the home of abandon motels and businesses.