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Mayor Keller and Balloon Fiesta Organizers Outline Strategies to Break the Traffic Gridlock Around Balloon Fiesta

Strategies include an I-25 slip ramp, spur line between the RailRunner track and the park, implementing the use of City buses during Fiesta, and introducing more efficient bus routes to and from the park.

February 27, 2019

At a press conference this morning at Balloon Fiesta Park, Mayor Tim Keller joined community leaders and representatives of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to outline a series of strategies to put an end to the annual gridlock that accompanies the Balloon Fiesta.

“The Balloon Fiesta is Albuquerque’s Super Bowl, except it doesn’t last just one day, it lasts nine. We’ve heard countless members of the community say that the traffic surrounding the event is impacting quality of life in our city. Our traffic plan is putting some good, proven solutions on the table. We’re asking the State and the Council to help us break the gridlock,” Mayor Keller said.

Mayor Keller and the City have asked the New Mexico State Legislature and the City Council to fund various capital-based solutions to break the gridlock. Those include potentially building a slip ramp to I-25 that would create direct access to the highway for visitors trying to exit the park. A spur line covering the short distance between the RailRunner track and the park is also being considered for funding at the State level. Additionally, implementing the use of City buses, introducing more efficient bus routes to and from the park, and other considerations are also on the table as the City, the Balloon Fiesta board, and the community partner to address a widely acknowledged problem.

“As we move forward with planning for the 2019 Balloon Fiesta, Park and Ride and traffic management will be a major focus. We look forward to working collaboratively to develop processes that will improve our guests’ experience,” said Sam Parks, Balloon Fiesta director of operations.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is an economic boon for the City of Albuquerque, with over 886,000 people attending last year. In 2017, the Balloon Fiesta had a $172.98 million total impact on Albuquerque. It was estimated that during the morning peak hour, approximately 4,270 vehicles travel to the park. Traffic has been getting worse every year, threatening to ruin or undermine the experience of a world-class, signature event for our City.

Problems with traffic getting into and out of the park were well-documented during last year’s event. Traffic often began backing up as early as 3:00 a.m., with multiple accidents only compounding the challenge. Local media reports at the time included interviews with people—including some who had spent money on park and ride tickets—who gave up and went back home without ever making it to the park. Traffic also impacts local residents who are commuting to and from work.