Monday, May 6, 2013

$500M Loop 375 Extension

Border Highway West Project May Begin Construction in 2015

Construction on the massive Border Highway West (BHW) extension project could begin in two years, according to the Abbreviated State Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) just released by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT). The nine mile project would create a tolled expressway from downtown El Paso, where Loop 375 currently ends, north and west to a point just south of the Interstate 10 at Paisano intersection near Sunland Park.
New ramps will connect the Border Highway with Paisano Drive and Delta Street just east of downtown El Paso.
The abbreviated EIS is an update of the one approved in September of 2012 and highlights any changes that were made to the original. This includes changes to the previously chosen “Alternative 2,” the route that was preferred by the state and announced last year.

Revisions have been made to westbound access to the toll road along the southern edge of downtown as well as changes to the proposed Coles/Paisano interchange. This interchange would give downtown commuters and entrance to Loop 375 eastbound.

The new tolled portion of the expressway will take a 7.1 mile southeasterly route from the west side to downtown. It will run along US 85 (Paisano Drive) from its western terminus and head southeast, then take an eastward turn just past Doniphan Drive. Doniphan currently ends in a dead end west of Racetrack Drive but is extended in the plan to form on- and off-ramps that will provide access to Loop 375.
A schematic design from the state’s Environmental Impact Statement shows the elevated Border Highway West extension in the vicinity of Doniphan Drive and Racetrack Drive.
Border Highway West will then cross the current CEMEX industrial property and take a southward turn at the planned interchange with Executive Boulevard, just west of I-10. The Loop will then run parallel to the Interstate within current TXDOT right of way, on the eastern side of the former ASARCO smelting property.

Once past the ASARCO site, BHW will cross the current Globe Mills site across from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). This will require acquisition of 12 properties in this area. An interchange will be built here with the future Schuster Avenue extension.
The new tollway will interchange with the future Schuster Ave. extension.
After Schuster, BHW will travel over Paisano Drive, then hug the international boundary with Mexico until it connects with the current Border Highway underneath the Santa Fe Bridge Port of Entry. Two residential properties in the Chihuahuita neighborhood will be affected.

South of downtown, the current road will remain non-tolled but will become a limited access freeway. This means current intersections and median cuts will be removed. Access to Park Street will be completely closed, as will access to Santa Fe Street. Westbound exits will exist at Oregon and Campbell Streets.

Just east of downtown, a new multi-ramp interchange will connect the Border Highway with Paisano Drive and Delta Street, providing east and westbound access to the city’s center. Eleven commercial and one residential property will have to be acquired by the state for this portion of construction.

The entire project will span nine miles from El Paso’s west side to the Border Highway’s interchange with US-54 near the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry.

TXDOT’s EIS approximates a cost of $500 million for the project which will come entirely from state funds which have not yet been finalized. It also estimates construction will begin in 2015, though dates are subject to change and financing.