Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Closer Look: 2013 El Paso County Comprehensive Mobility Plan

$120M County Pledge Will Help Fund Sixteen Projects

Earlier this month, County of El Paso Commissioners approved spending $120 million to help fund 16 major transportation projects throughout the county. Total costs for the projects are estimated at $392 million.
Four of the projects that will be helped by the County of El Paso include (counterclockwise from top left) the Spur 601/Loop 375 Direct Connector, the I-10 Collector-Distributor Lanes, the Americas Interchange Direct Connectors, and the Mesa Park Overpass and Frontage Roads. (County of El Paso)

The 16 projects stretch from west to east and include many both inside and outside the El Paso city limits. Here is a breakdown of the projects, some of which could see construction begin within a year.

I-10 Collector-Distributor Lanes (Mesa to Executive)
The Interstate 10 Collector-Distributor Lanes project is separated into two sections in the County’s Mobility Plan. The first stretches from Mesa Street on the far West Side of El Paso to an area just north of Executive Center Boulevard.

The approximately four mile project will, in essence, add a second set of freeway lanes that will “collect” and distribute traffic from off- and on-ramps, and keep them separate from the main lanes in the middle of I-10. Traffic entering and exiting I-10 will use these lanes and will not directly affect the main lanes.

Officials hope to have the environmental study and the schematic design completed by spring of 2014 with construction possibly beginning by the end of the same year. The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) held community meetings in 2012 to update the public on its Collector-Distributor Lanes plan.
This map, from the County’s Mobility Plan, shows the location of the 16 projects throughout the area. (County of El Paso)

I-10 Collector-Distributor Lanes (Mesa Park)
The southern portion of the I-10 Collector-Distributor Lanes project involves creating a new overpass at the interstate for a new City street that is part of a future SmartCode development. Mesa Park Drive will take traffic to and from the planned Aldea El Paso development and connect with Mesa Street to the east.

New frontage roads will also be built from Mesa Park Drive to Executive Center Boulevard. Eastbound traffic will have to use the Mesa Park Drive exit to access Executive Center as the current eastbound exit ramp will be eliminated.

This portion of the project has an estimated cost of $25 million and could also see construction begin by the end of 2014.

I-10/Border Highway Connectors (Spaghetti Bowl)
This project’s goals are to provide direct connections between I-10 and Loop 375 in the vicinity of the Spaghetti Bowl in Central El Paso. Currently, east and westbound traffic on I-10 cannot access the Border Highway (Loop 375) without exiting onto surface streets.
(County of El Paso)
Transportation officials are looking for a way to incorporate existing ramps to create these direct connections. Current southbound ramps off of I-10 take traffic directly to the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry.

Preliminary estimates put the project cost at $25 million with an approximate construction contract ready in 2016.

I-10 Viscount-to-Airway Ramp Improvements
Following up on ramp improvements made in recent years along I-10 between Airway Boulevard and Viscount Boulevard, transportation planners now want to “tweak” the ramps and lanes. The ramps were changed two years ago from traditional diamond interchanges to “X” interchanges to try and alleviate traffic at signals along the Gateways.

Preliminary plans include making changes to the lanes along both Gateway Boulevard East and West and on Interstate 10, including possible addition of lanes. The cost estimate is $12 million with construction slated for 2015.

Loop 375/Spur 601 Direct Connector
This project will add a direct connector ramp to an interchange that is quickly becoming one of El Paso’s busiest during rush hour commutes. Currently, the intersection of Spur 601 and Loop 375, two freeways, is a traditional diamond intersection. The proposed project will create a ramp that connects northbound Loop 375 to westbound Spur 601.

The overall project will eventually create a total of four direct connector ramps, but the first is seen as the most important by transportation officials. Once completed, drivers will no longer have to go through a traffic light to get onto Spur 601.

The ramp will cost about $15 million to build with the environmental study and schematic design set for completion in spring of 2014. According to the presentation given to County officials, the project could be begin construction earlier than the scheduled 2019 date.

I-10/Loop 375 Direct Connectors
Three ramps have been constructed and three others are now under construction at the I-10/Loop 375 interchange in Far East El Paso. This project aims to build the final two direct connectors at the site.

The final ramps will connect southbound Loop 375 and northbound Loop 375 to eastbound I-10. The environmental study and engineering schematics have already been completed as part of previous ramp construction. The project is also one that may be expedited but currently has a possible construction start in 2019.

Delta Overpass
Delta Drive near Downtown El Paso may see additional traffic as part of the massive Border Highway West project which will bring new ramps to the area near Coles Street. Transportation officials are now planning to build a Delta Drive bridge that will take traffic over railroad tracks.

The area of focus is to the southwest of Bowie High School where new ramps will take traffic to and from Loop 375 east of Downtown. The $8 million project could begin construction in 2015.

I-10/FM 1110 Bridge Replacement
The Farm-to-Market Road 1110 overpass bridge at I-10 outside of the city limits will be replaced and widened in this project. A brand new, six-lane overpass will be constructed. The overpass is located at the Clint exit on the interstate and also the southern end of Darrington Road. Construction on the $12 million project may begin in 2015.

FM 1110 Construction/Upgrade
A related project will widen and expand FM 1110 from I-10 to SH 20 (Alameda). Currently, the road that meanders to the Clint area is a two-lane thoroughfare. The project will create a four-lane, divided arterial for approximately three miles. The $38 million project could see construction start in 2015.

Eastlake Boulevard/Old Hueco Tanks
Three projects combine to affect the same thoroughfare just outside of the city limits. First, one of Horizon City’s main connections to I-10 will be getting an extra lane. Eastlake Boulevard will be expanded from four to six lanes from the interstate eastward to Darrington Road. The approximately $15 million project will stretch about 3.6 miles and could see construction start in 2015.

Another project will expand the new six lane Eastlake eastward and connect it to Horizon Boulevard near Horizon High School. The $23 million project may also begin construction in 2015.

And on the western terminus of Eastlake (at I-10), a project is in the works to build a four lane road westward and connect it to North Loop. Preliminary costs for Old Hueco Tanks Road are $12 million with a construction date set for 2015.

Rojas Widening
Another project outside of the city limits is the plan to widen Rojas Drive from four to six lanes. The $4 million project stretches from the El Paso city limits to Eastlake Boulevard, or about 0.6 miles. It should be ready for construction in 2015.

Greg/Edgemere Blvd. Extension
Edgemere Boulevard ends about 0.7 miles east of Zaragoza Road in Far East El Paso. This project will extend it another 1.7 miles, approximately, to the east and connect it to Greg Road in the Montana Vista area of the county. The $1 million project could break ground in 2016.

Arterial 1
This project will create a still-unnamed thoroughfare from Eastlake Boulevard to Pellicano Drive. The nearly two mile road will travel north and south and will brush the western edge of the Horizon Airport. The $7.5 million project may see construction start in 2016.

Manuel F. Aguilera Highway
The final project on the Mobility Plan’s list is to construct a “non-freeway” road in the vicinity of Tornillo in the far eastern section of the county. The Manuel F. Aguilera Highway will help ready the area for possibly increased traffic when the new Tornillo Port of Entry is opened. The $17 million project may break ground in 2015.

Financing for the $392 million worth of projects will come from multiple sources. The County’s approximately $120 million comes from $72 million generated from increased vehicle registration fees and $48 million from its Transportation Reinvestment Zone.

The Town of Horizon is kicking in $5 million and the City of Socorro another $9 million from their respective Transportation Reinvestment Zones. The remaining $258 million will come from funds leveraged by TXDOT, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and other sources, according the Plan.

The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority is expected to develop and manage the majority of he projects. The Authority was formed in 2007 by the El Paso City Council and has helped several projects be realized in the city, including Spur 601 and the Americas Interchange.