Message from the Executive Director
As we so often come to discover during and after a crisis passes, there are silver linings and often valuable byproducts that emerge through growth and change. There are things we have all learned and will continue to carry with us through and beyond this experience – including the way we conduct ourselves both personally and professionally.
One clear reflection of this change can be seen in the way we now meet for board meetings. Going from all inperson meetings to mostly virtual platform meetings…and now to land somewhere in the middle with a hybrid of both has essentially enabled us to meet our quorum requirements and accomplish the business at hand. That said, I am very proud of the work we have done this past year, and even more encouraged about the promise of Fiscal Year 2023. With the completion of the much-anticipated Regional Transportation Management Center, our longtime tenants from the NM DOT were finally able to relocate from the lower-level and make the move into their new state-of-the-art facility. This gave us the opportunity to make the necessary renovations and improvements so that all MRCOG and Rio Metro employees can now be housed under one roof – different floors, but one roof!
Another highlight of the past year, the FHWA and the FTA conducted a virtual certification review of our MPO’s transportation planning process, and while we are awaiting the official findings, the overall sentiment from the Federal Review Team was that it was a very successful review. One federal team member in particular commended the MPO staff for their preparation and their good work and pointed out the strong collaboration and cooperation between the MPO, the DOT, and our Transit Providers.
And speaking of transit providers, Rio Metro continues its efforts to install seamless Wi-Fi service in the Rail Runner corridor, as well as efforts to get back to a pre-pandemic ridership. One thing we did not foresee was the competitive market as a result of the pandemic to maintain and attract bus operators, which caused a reassessment of the current pay scale.
And while more money was expended to keep people working in Rio Metro, our Workforce program received an additional $500 thousand from the State – a windfall that resulted largely from other state departments not being able to meet their spending deadlines. These extra funds will help out greatly when it comes to supporting efforts to get viable jobs and training in a post-pandemic market…as well as assist our many employers throughout the region with finding good candidates.
Our economic development efforts have been bolstered by the Economic Development Administration’s release of American Rescue Plan funds, which have led to significant contributions to many entities within the region. And because of the pandemic, Congress has released those funds for some very non-traditional uses. We now have hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing into the region to support projects in travel tourism and outdoor recreation…as well as more monies going toward tribal entrepreneurship and local food businesses.
Given the influx of federal funds that have come into the region to support recovery, we see that we are a resilient region with much to look forward to and many accomplishments of which we can be proud. I am confident that together we will continue the great work we do with our elected officials and member agencies as we endeavor to put forth a sound, responsible, and balanced budget for fiscal year 2023.
Dewey V. Cave, Executive Director