ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The International Balloon Fiesta is one of Albuquerque’s biggest events, and with it comes big crowds. However when all those crowds leave, Balloon Fiesta Park sees big traffic jams.This weekend, traffic congestion went on for miles and made a lot of drivers frustrated.
“The pressure of getting that many cars and people onto Balloon Fiesta Park was somewhat unprecedented,” said fiesta spokesman Tom Garrity.
Some people were turned away Saturday morning as parking lots filled up. Then Saturday evening, drivers were at a standstill with some waiting hours to get out of Balloon Fiesta Park. On Monday, City Council President Ken Sanchez said it’s time to take a serious look at the situation.
“I think long-term wise, one of the things we should look at as a city is purchasing additional property near that site,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said he wants the city to add more roads into the park and more parking lots. However, the land around the park may cost a lot of money.
“Unfortunately, that is probably going to be prime property at a very expensive cost,” Sanchez said.
The Sandia Pueblo is north of the park. Sanchez hopes to start talks with the governors there to see if they could maybe work something out.
“The benefit is to the entire state, the pueblo and the city,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said that could take a while. In the meantime, he said the city and Balloon Fiesta officials need to increase the push on leaving the car out of the equation.
“I think we really need to look at increasing our park and ride throughout the city and make it more convenient for visitors across the country, across the world and locally.,” Sanchez said.
He said an outside company has operated park and ride at the fiesta since 2000. Now he wants the city to get involved. He said if they can accommodate guests on the weekends, that could make an immediate impact. Sanchez would like to see that done before next year’s events take flight to ensure Balloon Fiesta Park isn’t put in jeopardy.
“I would hate to see them move again which and I think this is a prime location for this venue,” Sanchez said.
Balloon Fiesta officials say they will begin meeting in February to take a closer look at things. Currently, there are seven designated parking lots for the park that hold 12,000 cars. The city said the Convention and Visitors Bureau will tweak its marketing strategy, pushing more weekday events to relieve some of the weekend crowd.