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Kirtland reviewing traffic, parking issues at air show

Kirtland Air Force Base officials are going through a “lessons-learned” review of the traffic and parking problems that occurred during the recent Kirtland Air and Space Fiesta.

“We did receive complaints for traffic from the Air and Space Fiesta, in addition to kudos for the event,” Kirtland spokeswoman Eva Blaylock said.

More than 45,000 people attended the May 18 event, which featured the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, Blaylock said.

In letters to the editor published in the Journal, readers complained about wait times in traffic, trips on shuttles and waits through security, a process some said took more than three hours. Traffic was particularly bad between Interstate 40 and the Eubank Gate, they said. The gate at Eubank was the only gate open for people without ID cards to the base. People with disabilities could enter through the contractor’s gate.

“I can hear an excuse of safety checking for threats, etc.; then why only one entrance?” Albuquerque resident Chris Demas wrote.

Demas and fellow letter writer David Neale made note of the lack of Albuquerque police officers helping to direct traffic. Rio Rancho resident Thomas Francl complained the shuttle buses were not sufficient and said the return back to the car “was a crying mess.”

Base officials were anticipating some problems with traffic and parking before the event, which was around six hours long. Open parking spots south of the VA/Kirtland hospital near Bullhead Park were made available, with people being shuttled to the event. In a preview story for the fiesta, Lt. Col. Amanda Phlegar, the open house director for the fiesta, encouraged residents to use ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft through the Truman Gate to cut down on traffic and congestion.

Blaylock said base personnel “will discuss potential fixes for many logistical concerns that were noted, in addition to traffic.”

She said it takes about two years to plan the air show. Before the May 18 show, the last air show the base hosted was in 2016.