Monday, October 1, 2012

Ring Around the City: Loop 375 Stacked with Projects

Years of planning to expand Loop 375 and an infusion of state and regional funding have resulted in several freeway projects occurring all at once around the city with more soon on the way. The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) in conjunction with the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) and with local officials, has helped many of these projects find funding.

City and transportation officials have coordinated more than $1 billion in projects in the area, but the biggest focus has been on transforming the 375 into a true loop by adding more lanes, constructing main lanes where there are currently only gateways, and expanding the loop westward from its current terminus south of downtown. Officials hope this will alleviate traffic on Interstate 10 as commuters opt for other freeways.

Here is a recap of the ongoing and planned projects along the city's Loop.

Northeast Main Lanes

Loop 375 in Northeast El Paso will be a complete freeway in the coming years as the missing main lanes from Rushing to US-54 will finally be constructed. Commuters will see much less congestion along the frontage roads, known as Woodrow Bean/Transmountain Road, as through traffic will no longer have to stop.

Travelling eastward from the Franklin Mountains, the new lanes will dive underneath US-54 and Gateways North and South, then will become raised lanes from Kenworthy Street to Rushing Road. The main lanes will connect to where the current main lanes end, just west of Dyer Street. An overpass will also be constructed at Alcan Street.

The total length for the $66 million project is 3.0 miles and has a general completion date of fall of 2013. There have been no plans mentioned to construct direct connectors between Loop 375 and US-54. The contractor is J.D. Abrams, L.P. of Austin.

Learn more at the Texas Department of Transportation presentation page.

Beaumont Hospital/EPCC East Fort Bliss Interchange

To the south and east is a new interchange/overpass project on Fort Bliss land. Also coming soon to Fort Bliss: a new $1 billion William Beaumont hospital and a new El Paso Community College campus, both in an area just south of the 375/601 interchange. With this in mind, the new interchange is currently under construction which will allow easier access to these sites once completed.

The still-unnamed road will travel over Loop 375 and allow access to the new EPCC facility to non-military commuters. The $6 million project was originally slated for completion in July of 2012.

Related Post: New $1B Beaumont Hospital, EPCC Add to Ft. Bliss Expansion

375 at Montwood/Zaragoza Direct Connectors

In far east El Paso, two direct connectors are currently being constructed which will connect 375 northbound to Zaragoza Road eastbound and Zaragoza westbound to 375 southbound, at Joe Battle Boulevard. The hope is that the project will relieve the notoriously congested intersection of Montwood/Zaragoza/Joe Battle by giving commuters direct access to the freeway.

The $25 million project is currently in Phase 4 out of 7 and scheduled for completion in November of 2013. The contractor on the project is A.S. Horner, Inc. of Albuquerque.

See more at the A.S. Horner project page.

Americas Interchange

Further south, work on three direct connectors at the Interstate 10/Loop 375 (Americas) Interchange continues with a completion target of January 2013. Progress can clearly be seen by commuters in the area, and drivers may be able to take advantage of the ramps in less than four months' time. Still, the area may not be finished with construction as planning and design is underway for the remaining five connectors.

The current $146 Million project is being constructed by Americas Gateway Builders, a partnership between Zachry Construction of San Antonio and CH2M-Hill of Englewood, Colorado.

Related Posts: Americas Interchange Altering Eastside Landscape
Americas Interchange Landscape Options to be Considered by CRRMA

Cesar Chavez Border Highway Managed Lanes

A nine mile Border Highway project from US-54 to the Zaragoza Port of Entry is still under construction in El Paso's Lower Valley. The freeway's four main lanes are being rehabilitated and an additional inside lane will be constructed. The additional lane in each direction will be a "managed" toll lane, the first in the region.

The project will also add noise barriers to several areas along residential neighborhoods abutting the highway, and landscaping may also take place in certain rights of way.

The contractor for the $54 million project is J.D. Abrams of Austin. It is scheduled for completion in March of 2013.

For more project photos, see the J.D. Abrams project page.

Transmountain West Expansion

This project in the city's far northwest side will expand Transmountain Road from its current status as a two-lane country highway to a full-fledged limited access freeway with two lanes in each direction. Also included are two lanes of frontage road in each direction, hike and bike trails along the length of the project, and overpasses at Northwestern Drive, Resler Drive, future Plexxar Road, and future Paseo del Norte Road.

The expansion will affect a 3.6 mile portion of Loop 375 and will also include two direct connector ramps to Interstate 10. The project will also affect the current entrance to Franklin Mountain State Park by moving it to a country road which will intersect with Paseo del Norte Road to the west.

The $61 million project has already begun construction as freeway columns can clearly be seen popping up along I-10 and Loop 375 between Desert North Boulevard and Northwester Drive. The freeway's footprint is also visible while driving along Transmountain Road. The contractor is Sundt Construction, Inc. of Tucson who has stated that construction should be complete by Spring 2014.

See more documentation at the TXDOT project page.

Related Post: City Prefers New Franklin Mountains State Park Entrance, Gives Park 600 Acres

Future Projects

Border Highway West - An extension of the Border Highway westward from where it currently ends south of Downtown. The eight mile, $750 million project is still in the planning stages. Read more in our post here: Loop 375 West Extension Grows Eastward

Americas Managed Lanes - Add an inside lane in each direction from the Zaragoza Port of Entry to Pellicano Drive. The additional lane will be a manage toll lane. The five mile, $37 million project is in the early planning stages. Read more in our post here: $37.6M Americas Managed Lanes Project Takes Shape

Northeast Parkway Interchange - Direct connectors from Loop 375 to a new tollway. The Northeast Expressway would be a 21 mile long project that would take traffic through the Anthony Gap north of the Franklin Mountains and connect with Interstate 10 in New Mexico. The Texas portion of the project is estimated to cost $226 million. Learn more at the TXDOT project page here.

Less Traffic, or More?

While the projects may mean more detours for El Paso commuters than they are used to, some see this as the temporary price drivers must pay for a less-congested future. Still, there are others who believe that giving motorists more lanes to use simply gives them more of a reason to use the lanes, resulting in more trips per driver. This means that the increase in capacity can actually cause more congestion, called Induced Traffic. Additionally, with the City's recent focus on rebuilding Downtown, do more and more freeways only end up hurting this cause? Will the current boom of projects for Loop 375 truly relieve the city of congestion, or will it only lead to further congestion in the future while providing residents more of a reason to stay in suburban neighborhoods? These questions may be answered for El Paso in the relatively near future...