Thursday, June 21, 2012

Loop 375 West Extension Grows Eastward

The scope of the upcoming Border Highway West extension grew by one mile to the east recently when the Texas Department of Transportation unveiled the latest plans for the Loop 375 extension. The project's limits will now stretch from US-54 near Chamizal Park to just south of the I-10/Paisano/Sunland Park interchange. A new interchange has also been included at Coles near Paisano just east of Downtown.

Access mostly blocked south of downtown.
The Border Highway's intersections near the downtown international bridges will be largely limited and mostly blocked off, creating a true expressway feel. Commuters will have to exit east or west of downtown to access the areas, using new interchange ramps that will access Paisano Drive including the new interchange at Coles. Westbound commuters will have an additional exit at Campbell which can be used by those who wish to avoid using the tolled portion of the highway.

Eastward, the State's strategy may be to continue the managed toll lanes currently under construction east of US-54 onto the portion of the Border Highway just added to the project. Plans are already underway to add a toll lane in each direction on Loop 375 from the Zaragoza port of entry up to the America's interchange. In addition, an extra inside lane was included in each direction when the Loop 375 main lanes were constructed from I-10 to Montana, and they remain unused today. If these unused lanes are also changed to managed toll lanes, the State could have managed lanes on Loop 375 from Montana south through the entire stretch of Border Highway, and continued west of downtown to the I-10/US-82/Sunland Park interchange.

The alignment of the highway's 8-mile westward extension has not yet been decided, though it would be surprising to see the State choose the so called Railyard A option considering it would cut right through the historic Chihuahuita neighborhood and require the acquisition of many properties through eminent domain. Border A is the optimal choice; it would run south of the neighborhood and along the Rio Grande River.

Railyard A would cut through historic Chihuahuita.
Further north, the options split again as the tollway reaches the Asarco property. The Railyard B option would basically hug I-10 along the property up to Executive where it would take a turn west and align with Paisano once again. The optimal choice would be Border B as it would run along the same path as Paisano and separate itself from I-10 to truly become it's own highway. Commuters may be less apt to use the tollway if it simply sits to the side of I-10.

The State will present its choice for the tollway's route in a meeting scheduled for November 2012. Additional steps in the process include the environmental study and developing Context Sensitive Solutions, which is the State's goal to tailor the highway to the surrounding community. This includes aesthetics and design elements. TxDOT has become much more serious in recent years in regards to trying to produce visually appealing projects.

TxDOT presented the new plans to City Council on June 19, 2012, and to the public at a meeting at UTEP on June 20.

Border Highway West project website:

TxDOT May Fast Track I-10, L-375 Projects