Thursday, March 22, 2012
Before We Spend $50M, How About We Let the Voters Decide?
Download Letter from Abq City Councilor Rey Garduno:
I am writing to explain why City Councilors Ike Benton, Debbie O’Malley, and myself will vote to support sending a $50 million dollar bond proposal for the Paseo del Norte interchange to the voters this November. You may remember this important capital project was tied to the $25 million dollar sportsplex last October and was soundly rejected by voters. Please read below why we believe it's only right to send it back to voters again for consideration. Also, if you believe you should have the opportunity to vote on this project, please let Mayor Berry know. You can call him at 768-3000.
The Paseo del Norte/I-25 Improvement project is important to the City, the state and the region, and we need to move it forward as quickly as possible. The three of us have always supported this project, and as recently as last August voted to send the full $50 million in funding to the voters for their approval. Unfortunately, we were outvoted along straight party lines. We’ve always been consistent in our support for the project and in the need for voter approval.
That’s why we took the stand we did Monday night. Much has been made of that decision, and how it may affect the project, but as a practical matter, sending the project to the voters won’t delay it in any way. The contract for the design of the project still hasn’t been finalized, and once it is, the design won’t be complete for another 12 to 18 months. What’s the rush to issue bonds now? Issuing bonds this far ahead of when they’re needed will cost taxpayers millions of dollars in unnecessary interest payments. It’s like paying a mortgage before the house is even designed!
If we send this to the voters in November, they get the chance to weigh in on how we spend money that normally goes to pay for police, fire, parks, animal services, senior centers and other critical day-to-day costs of providing services to citizens. Voters should know that the $50 million funding for Paseo commits $3 million in Gross Receipts Tax (GRT) Operating Funds from those services annually for the next 30 years.
Moreover, the County’s proposed funding is going to the voters for approval this November, and no one is saying the County doesn’t support the project! Albuquerque citizens are being asked to fund the lion’s share of the project, so shouldn’t they get an opportunity to weigh in on how their money is spent?
As far as federal funding, opportunities to apply for "TIGER" (federal transportation improvement) grants have been available every six months. Should the voters approve the project, it’s possible that by then the design will be far enough along to demonstrate to the Department of Transportation that the project is truly multi-modal, which will only help our chances of getting the grant.
Once again, we want to make it clear that we have always supported the Paseo del Norte interchange project, and understand the positive impact it will have the community. We just want to make sure that the citizens of Albuquerque get to decide how $75 million of their tax dollars are spent.
Actually, for the last bond election, I didn't have a problem with the sports complex, but I did with the Paseo interchange. Reasons: 1) I believe that the reason this interchange is so busy is becasue of all the traffic going to Rio Rancho, and they're not ponying up a dime for improvements. 2) Unless the Paseo intersection with Jefferson is turned into an interchange instead of a 4 way stop(light), then the traffic will still bottleneck there. 3) And the paseo bridge needs to be at least one lane wider to handle the traffic. None of these items are addresssed. 4) This is a state road and the state is only contributing $30M to the project.
However, I do have an option to propose - widen Osuna from the freeway to 2nd St, then improve 2nd St to the Paseo on/off ramps. Use 2nd St/Osuna as an alternative route for excess traffic - maybe add sings along I-25 and Paseo that would tell drivers that it's faster to take the alternative.
Improving Osuna and 2nd St has the side benefit of making the road more commercially viable for business, increasing our taxbase. Plus the project would cost less and certainly disrupt traffic far less than redoing Paseo (what a nightmare!)
Posted by: shotsie | Mar 22, 2012 5:06:38 PM
Shotsie's concerns are part of the reason that sending this project to the voters is so important. There is no reason to assume that it was rejected last time solely because it was attached to the sportsplex. The voters deserve to decide the paseo project's fate on its merits, or lack thereof.
Thank you Councillors Benton, Garduno, and O'Malley!
Posted by: Proud Democrat | Mar 22, 2012 7:53:21 PM