Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Newest State Park Entrance Design Revealed

Intersection at Loop 375 Simplified, Includes Wildlife Passage

The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TXDOT) newest plans for the Franklin Mountains State Park entrance on El Paso’s far Northwest Side is much simpler in design, according to concept images released last week. The intersection of the entrance at Loop 375 (Transmountain Road) will now also include a hiking and wildlife underpass.
The latest design for the Loop 375/Franklin Mountains State Park entrance intersection shows a simpler design with less disruption. A hiking underpass is at right. (TXDOT)

The images show a left-turn lane for vehicles traveling eastbound on Transmountain Road that will cross the median and yield to oncoming westbound traffic. The median cut will only be used for this purpose. Westbound travelers will still have a right-turn-only lane to enter the park.

Those exiting the park will have only the option to turn right onto Transmountain, and those wishing to travel east will have to use a U-turn at an underpass further to the west. Loop 375 in this area is currently undergoing expansion and will include future freeway overpasses on the West Side.

The new designs may be considered an olive branch of sorts to El Paso nature-lovers and conservationists who previously balked at larger-scale plans released in recent years which showed overpasses and freeway ramps that were part of a complex interchange. Some felt these features would have caused damage to the surrounding ecosystem and natural environment.

Concerns regarding animals’ ability to cross the freeway were also addressed with the new design, which includes an underpass that will allow hikers and wildlife alike to safely cross underneath. The underpass allows connectivity between two sections of Franklin Mountains State Park currently divided by Loop 375.

TXDOT’s Regional Engineer Bob Bielek revealed the design at a meeting on December 11 at Canutillo High School. Next steps include right-of-way acquisition and funding for the project. If kept on track, the project could be completed within 18 months.