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Albuquerque Rail Trail: A Vision Unveiled

Local and world-renowned architect Antoine Predock shares artistic design vision for Rail Trail
July 22, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE – Today, at a community gathering, Mayor Tim Keller was joined by world-renowned architect Antoine Predock to present a vision for the Albuquerque Rail Trail. Predock and his team are spearheading the design of the City project, creating a modern and artistic pathway that reflects the culture and history of the land of enchantment. It will transform our downtown neighborhoods and elevate the way we experience our city. 

The Rail Trail is a 7- to 8-mile multi-use trail that will connect key destinations in the greater downtown area, while also encouraging economic development, healthy recreation, and cultural expression. Fundamentally, this project balances the utility of a pedestrian parkway with bold, innovative storytelling that makes the Rail Trail a canvas for explaining how we are united in this place.

When the City of Albuquerque began to conceptualize the trail, they chose someone who can integrate the unique essence, beauty, and history of Albuquerque in the trail. Predock has lived Albuquerque for decades and was enchanted by the city when he first moved to New Mexico. He is one of the top living architects in the world, who happens to live in, and love, Albuquerque.

“The Rail Trail will be a defining project for our City and a landmark for future generations,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “We’re grateful to the team of architects, and community members, who believe in this vision. Together, we are creating a special place for residents, visitors and families to cherish and enjoy.”

Predock created an evocative vision for the project that illuminates the essence and enchantment of Albuquerque. We all have a special connection to this place and a reason why we love Albuquerque.

Throughout the length of the trail, there will be distinct zones. Predock describes these zones as “auras.” Each aura celebrates the culture and history of that area. The auras contain “plazitas" along the path that serve as access points and gathering spots for activity and community. Each plazita will have a digital explanation of the zone featuring music, people, foods, and the broader “story of us.”

Predock identifies the following auras along the trail:

  • Rio: The Rio Grande sustains life in Albuquerque and draws people for agriculture, recreation, and ritual. The Rail Trail loop connects to the Bosque Trail, taking people to the river.
  • Origins / Albuquerque: Old Town is the historic heart of Spanish Colonial Albuquerque and a destination for locals and tourists.
  • Tiguex: The Tiguex people originally inhabited this land. This zone honors the first people to live here and recognizes that their descendants are still here and contribute to the vibrancy of our present and future.
  • Sawmill: The lumber yards were an important industry in our city. Neighborhoods grew around the sawmills to sustain the people who worked there.
  • Enchantment / Enchantment Plaza: From this zone, you can see the Sandias to the east, volcanos to west, and the enchantment of the sky and land everywhere you look. It is a celebration of the landscape that inspires all who see it.
  • Industry: Factories and warehouses clustered along this area for ease of shipping dry goods and heavy materials. Family run businesses still fuel commerce in the zone.
  • 66: The Mother Road brought people to and through Albuquerque in the automobile. Albuquerque continued to be a crossroads for travel and commerce with Route 66.
  • Iron Horse: The arrival of the rail and trains transformed Albuquerque. The Rail Yards were once an economic powerhouse during industrialization. This area continues to be the hub for moving people and goods by train through the city.
  • Barelas: Barelas is one of the oldest neighborhoods that grew as a result of the railroad coming to Albuquerque. Barelas maintains many traditional ways and fortitude of the families that built this community.
  • Umbral: Umbral is the Spanish word for threshold. This place is the original crossing of the Rio Grande and the entry point for the Camino Real.

Predock places an iconic Albuquerque image front and center: the tumbleweed. Predock envisions a giant, electric tumbleweed that will be a key feature of the Rail Trail. The image of a tumbleweed rolling down the road is part of every Burqueño’s experience and is enshrined in pop culture. These native plants are fantastic creations that lay down firm roots, keeping moisture in the soil for grasses, before they transform themselves and blow away. The tumbleweed represents our resilience and ability to both be grounded by our roots and move forward.

“This project honors Albuquerque’s cultural history while also laying the ground work for its future,” said MRA Director Terry Brunner. “The Rail Trail is an investment that will connect our communities and activate the heart of our city.”

“Beginning with Enchantment Plaza and culminating with that auspicious American crossroads moment at Central Crossing where US Route 66 was joined by the railroad, the Rail Trail reveals layers of the Land of Enchantment,” said Antoine Predock. “The intense polychrome graphics on the trail’s surface at each stop along the eight-mile circle tell the story of the neighborhoods, and of Albuquerque, summing up the Land of Enchantment.”

From the first indigenous trade routes, through the colonial era, from the bustle of Route 66, to the modern era, Albuquerque has always been a city at the crossroads. That story transcends space and time, and is honored through the vision for the Rail Trail.

The Rail Trail project was part of the Mayor’s Institute on City Design, Just City Mayoral Fellowship. The City is committed to making the trail safe, accessible and inclusive for residents and visitors alike. 

For more information on the Albuquerque Rail Trail, visit