Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2026 for nine FIFA World Cup games, including the semifinals.
Along with the excitement of hosting the most games in a single venue, there are also fears among locals of a traffic armageddon as airports, highways and cities become overwhelmed with tourists.
But Michael Morris isn't worried.
“In the past, if multiple venues were used on the same day, we were certainly able to manage that,” said Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
Morris should know. He is the driving force behind bringing the World Cup to Arlington. FIFA has strict infrastructure standards, so if you're considering hosting an event, you'll need a solid transportation plan.
AT&T Stadium can hold about 80,000 fans, 105,000 of which can be standing room, but Morris expects two to three times that number to visit the area during game week. . FIFA fan festivals and sponsored events draw large numbers of people and require many employees to serve the guests. It requires careful planning.
“All events will be planned by hour of the day, just like the Super Bowl,” Morris said.
Arlington doesn't have its own mass transit system, but major upgrades are planned at Fort Worth's Trinity Railroad Express Centerport Station that will enhance rail service for visitors. These include upgrades to amenities and signage that have already been funded, as well as a new locomotive that officials hope will be partially funded by a federal grant.
The area surrounding the stadium will be renovated, including upgrading traffic lights and message signs, and revising the structure of sidewalks and sunshades.
Sponsored charter buses will be encouraged to use the dedicated express lanes on Interstate 30 to prioritize stadium traffic on game day. More dynamic message signs will also be added to the highways.
The MLB All-Star Game, to be held at Globe Life Field in July, is an opportunity to test many of the transportation elements used at the World Cup. Several FIFA events are scheduled to be held in the region, which means more pressure than a one-shot match, Morris said.
“If we fail in the Super Bowl, it means the game is over, there's no more game,” Morris said. “If we don't do well in the first game of FIFA, we will have a problem, because there may already be five more games scheduled and they will not change. We cannot fail .That's why our transportation plan includes many redundant elements.”
With fans visiting from all over the world, airports will also face challenges. Many arrive at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport or Dallas Love Field, but others park their planes at smaller airports around the area.
Civil airports are already preparing for the influx of travelers, with authorities planning to introduce a reservation system to ease commercial air traffic.
“We have light rail to Love Field, we also have light rail and TEXRail lines from DFW Airport, and we will have very transit-oriented transportation to AT&T Stadium during the event,” Morris said. .
Transportation becomes an even more important factor as safety fencing reduces available stadium parking.
North Texas cities vying to host fan events will develop additional transportation plans. For example, due to limited parking in downtown Fort Worth, event attendees in Fort Worth are encouraged to park at the Trinity Railroad Express Station and take the train to downtown.
Mr Morris said he did not expect any major road disruptions for local residents who just wanted to spend the day, but that many people wanted to interrupt their normal daily lives to attend the FIFA event. I expect you will.
“On match days, we want to implement an active travel demand management program to encourage residents to attend FIFA, and we encourage both employers and employees to generally refrain from leaving their homes on certain days. We're going to work together,” Morris said. “You don't want to go to work during these international events, not because there are transportation problems, but because it's so cool.”
Bottom line: This isn't the first time North Texas has hosted an event with large crowds, and officials say they're prepared.
“We're working on everything we can think of, and we've worked on it before,” Morris said. “I'm not worried that our transportation system for 8 million people won't be able to accommodate the population shift that's coming.”