ART sparks attendance concerns over River of Lights event

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A long-time Albuquerque tradition, the River of Lights, begins Saturday. However, some people are concerned about the remaining signs of ART construction near the BioPark.

It’s the biggest fundraising event for the BioPark Society, raking in upwards of $600,000 a year.

“It is our 20th year, so it’s a big year already, and you know, getting 100,000 people through to that event every year is difficult on any normal day,” BioPark Society Executive Director Julie Miller Rugg said.

This year marks two decades of the magical tradition, but something very opposite of ‘magical’ is happening right outside the BioPark on Central: construction on the controversial Albuquerque Rapid Transit project.

KRQE News 13 went to the City of Albuquerque to see if River of Lights visitors should be worried about getting to the event.

Gilbert Montano, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, said ART work in that area, along with Nob Hill and Old Town will stop until the New Year.

“We want families and normal patrons of holiday events, like River of Lights, the Holiday Stroll, Twinkle Light Parade and all the other wonderful holiday festivities to not be in the middle of some of the traffic congestion and mitigation that already happens as a result of these events…and then compile that with some construction efforts or detours,” Montano said.

The stop in construction in these areas is a promise the city has long kept.

“We don’t want to in any way endanger the economic activity that Old Town and Nob Hill could be generating during the holiday season,” he said.

The signs of ART work will remain however: orange construction cones, lane closures and lane shifting.

Montano said Central at the BioPark will have two lanes open in each direction through the end of the year.

Still, the BioPark Society is worried and anxious to see what happens Saturday and throughout the event’s run.

“We just hope it doesn’t keep people away,” Rugg said. “It’s great fundraising event for the facility. It would be just really sad if we lose attendance.”

Rugg and Montano both said the easiest way to beat the construction and traffic is to park at the zoo and take a free bus ride to River of Lights.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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