Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ring Around the City (Update)

Loop 375 Stacked with Projects

Note: This story was originally published on October 1, 2012. It is being republished with revisions based on project updates.

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 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. TXDOT hopes commuters will see 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 $50 million project is 3.0 miles and should be open by July of 2014. 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.

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 has been completed and will allow easier access to the hospital and school.

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

Sundt Construction, the project contractor, announced completion of the overpass in early May as part of a larger project to prepare the site for hospital construction.

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 goal of the project is to help relieve the notoriously congested intersection of Montwood/Zaragoza/Joe Battle by giving commuters direct access to the freeway.
The $26 million project is currently scheduled for completion in November of 2013. The contractor on the project is A.S. Horner, Inc. of Albuquerque.

Americas Interchange

Further south, work on three direct connectors at the Interstate 10/Loop 375 (Americas) Interchange was mostly finished in early January. The area is not finished with construction as design and preparations are underway for three more of the remaining five connectors.
The completed $146 Million project that constructed the first three ramps was headed by Americas Gateway Builders, a partnership between Zachry Construction of San Antonio and CH2M-Hill of Englewood, Colorado.

J.D. Abrams of Austin is working on the next three connectors. The $43 million project is scheduled for completion in February of 2014. The three new ramps will connect Westbound I-10 to Northbound Loop 375, Westbound I-10 to Southbound Loop 375, and Eastbound I-10 to Southbound Loop 375.

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 tentatively scheduled for completion in November of 2013, according to the J.D. Abrams website.

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. An interchange at the entrance to Franklin Mountain State Park was recently put in limbo as TXDOT officials questioned funding.

The $61 million project has already begun construction as freeway columns and ramps 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.

Future Projects

Border Highway West - An extension of the Border Highway westward from where it currently ends south of Downtown. The eight mile, $500 million project is still in the planning stages.

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.

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.