Thursday, October 31, 2013

Toll Signs Go Up on Border Highway

Lanes May Open in Less Than Two Months

As construction on the Cesar Ch├ívez Border Highway nears an end, work crews are now installing signs along the roadway that point out what's soon to come: toll lanes. 
Work crews prepare to install "Toll Lane" signs along the Border Highway in El Paso.

Beginning in December, drivers can opt to take the inside lane along the nine-mile stretch of Loop 375 and pay a toll. The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) is calling them "managed" lanes because the actual fee to drive on the lanes will vary based on demand and the time of day.

The two original main lanes in each direction from US-54 to the Zaragoza Port of Entry will remain free and were reconstructed as part of the project.

Transportation officials pitched the idea of toll lanes years back as a way to speed up road construction in the Sun City. 

Though the project is the first to bring the "managed" lanes to El Paso, it won't be the last. Next up will be an extension of the lanes through the Americas Avenue portion of Loop 375 up to Bob Hope Drive on the East Side, and the massive Border Highway West extension whcih will be an entirely tolled facility.
Vehicles will only be allowed to enter or exit toll lanes at specific points.

Read more about the toll lanes and the CRRMA's marketing plans in our related story here:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Stiles Park to Receive 50 Trees

City to Hold Meeting on Planned Improvements

The City of El Paso will hold a community meeting next week to outline upcoming improvements to Stiles Parks in the Lower Valley. The neighborhood park is located near the corner of Stiles Drive and Dodge Road, south of North Loop.
Improvements to the park will include a new 8-foot wide concrete walking and jogging path, 50 new trees and 90 new shrubs, a drip irrigation system, a new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant parking space, and a bike rack.

Construction should begin in November with completion scheduled for early 2014. The $157,777 contract was awarded in September to Black Stallion LB Construction of El Paso.

The meeting will be held Monday, November 4, 2013, at Ramona Elementary School beginning at 5:30 p.m. 

Liberty Expressway to be Widened

Spur 601 to Get More Lanes, Frontage Roads

Yet another East El Paso freeway will see major construction in the coming years. That’s according to a Public Meeting Notice released by the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).

Spur 601, also known as Liberty Expressway, will get an additional lane in each direction as a result of the project which stretches from Airport Road to Loop 375 in East Fort Bliss. This will increase the number of lanes to three in each direction. The Spur already has three lanes in each direction west of the planned project.

Frontage roads will also be added along the five-mile stretch, though it’s unclear if the gateways will span the entire distance. 

The project’s meeting comes on the heels of other similar projects in East El Paso and Fort Bliss publicized earlier this month. Frontage roads will also be added to Loop 375 from the Spur 601 interchange southward to Montana Avenue.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Twelve-Story Apartment High-Rise Coming to Downtown El Paso

TJ Karam, partner at Bearing Development, has told KVIA that he and a group of investors plan to build a 11 1/2 to 12-story apartment building in Downtown El Paso about a block from the baseball stadium site. The first floor of the building will house a beer garden.
Future site of an apartment high-rise in Downtown El Paso. (Bearing Development)

The structure will be built at 533 West Franklin Street, less than 500 feet to the west of the future Triple-A ballpark, the site of the former Oscar's Laundry building which currently stands vacant. Bearing Development told the El Paso Times earlier this year that plans were in the works for 40 apartment units at that location, though the size of the building was not disclosed at the time.

Ballpark Readies for 'Chihuahuas'

New Team Name Getting National Attention

Whether or not you like the Triple-A team name revealed last week for El Paso’s coming ball club, work on the stadium continues at full speed in anticipation of opening day in April. Still, the newly named Chihuahuas are turning heads and garnering attention throughout the country after the announcement of the team name.
Steel archways will hover over the concourse at the Triple-A ballpark. (City of El Paso)

Steel columns and girders have turned construction vertical at the ballpark construction site, helping define archways under which visitors to the stadium will pass. The columns will support the club and press levels, rising about 50 feet above Durango Street. Nearly 1,000 tons of steel will be used in constructing the stadium.

Construction can also be seen on structures along Santa Fe Street. These will house the outfield buildings which will include levels to be used for parties and events.

“We are entering a phase of construction in which we’ll see rapid progress,” states Alan Shubert, the Project Manager for the stadium construction site, on the City’s website. “While the steel work is the most visible, work is progressing rapidly on all corners of the construction site.”

Monday, October 28, 2013

Weekly Edition, Issue 30

The Weekly Edition, Issue 30 has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE. (Note: The newsletter will open in PDF format.)

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

East El Paso, Fort Bliss to See More Highway Construction

Projects Lined Up for Loop 375, US 62, Zaragoza Rd.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) will hold community meetings in the coming weeks to inform the public about four new projects planned for East El Paso and Fort Bliss. Projects include widening of highways and roads, building new frontage roads, and a first-of-its-kind interchange in El Paso.

Loop 375 Widening

The first project will widen Loop 375 from Spur 601 to Montana Avenue, adding a lane in each direction. Currently, the freeway has two travel lanes in each direction and the project will add a third.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Weekly Edition, Issue 29

The Weekly Edition, Issue 29 has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE. (Note: The newsletter will open in PDF format.)

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Friday, October 18, 2013

UTEP Gives Basketball Court New Paint Job


The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) recently posted a time-lapse video (below) to its YouTube channel showing crews applying a new paint job to the Don Haskins Center’s basketball court floor. The design includes two large pickaxes in subdued tones spanning the width of the court.

Take a look at how crews got the job done in the video:


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

City May Rezone 4,669 Acres in Northwest El Paso

CPC Will Review Application on Thursday

Around 4,669 acres of mostly undisturbed open space in Northwest El Paso could be partially preserved if City officials approve a rezoning application for the area. The majority of the property is immediately adjacent to the Franklin Mountains State Park and stretches from areas near the Transmountain Road corridor north to the New Mexico state line.
Over 4,600 acres of land in Northwest El Paso could be designated as ‘Urban Reserve District’ by the City. (City of El Paso)
The acreage is owned by the City of El Paso and made up of 14 parcels currently zoned for either manufacturing or residential development. The proposal would change the zoning to Urban Reserve District, defined by the City’s Municipal Code as “an area that has development value with open space opportunities.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Medical Center of the Americas Growth

Foundation to Present 1st Annual Impact Fund Report

The City of El Paso will get the first annual report from the Medical Center of the Americas (MCA) Foundation this week on various ongoing efforts bolstered by the City’s investment last year. A Chapter 380 Economic Development Program Grant Agreement was established on February 7, 2012 between the City and the MCA Foundation.
This rendering shows what the entrance to the Cardwell Collaborative Building may look like when it opens in August 2015. (www.elpasotexas.gov)
Representatives of the MCA will update City officials on various endeavors including funding resources, staffing efforts, and planning and design details for a biomedical institute and the tech park. The Foundation is also working continuously to acquire properties in the vicinity of the MCA campus.
The Cardwell Collaborative Building will be visible from Interstate 10. (mcamericas.org)
The Biomedical Institute of the Americas (BMIA) was formed last year with help of City grant funding to encourage biomedical research and innovation in the El Paso region. To date, the BMIA has “triaged” biomed companies on a local and national level, according to the report, and hopes to become a “robust innovation pipeline” within five years.
A Cafe will be located on the first floor of the Cardwell Collaborative.
Another venture the MCA Foundation has undertaken is the Clinical Research Organization (CRO), an effort to launch a local clinical trials network. The Foundation will align itself with one or more CROs, identify products needing clinical trials, and integrate them into the local provider network. The CRO launched in 2012.

Monday, October 14, 2013

EP Triple-A Teases Mascot, Releases Video

Two intense looking eyeballs are now greeting visitor's to the El Paso Triple-A website (elpasotriplea.com), a way of teasing the public on the still-unannounced mascot for the baseball team. The ball club narrowed the possibilities down to five mascots in June, the Aardvarks, Buckaroos, Chihuahuas, Desert Gators, or Sun Dogs.

Based on the eyes peering out from the website, the candidates most likely include the Desert Gators or Sun Dogs, though any mascot could be made to have a fierce stare. El Pasoans submitted ideas for the mascot, and team owners allowed the public to vote on the finalists earlier this year.

Weekly Edition, Issue 28

The Weekly Edition, Issue 28 has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE. (Note: The newsletter will open in PDF format.)

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Store Openings Continue at 'Fountains'

Twin Peaks Opens this Week, Barnes & Noble on Oct. 16

New Fountains at Farah stores continue to open on a weekly basis. Barnes & Noble Booksellers will open its newest book store on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at the hybrid lifestyle/power center on El Paso’s east side.
Twin Peaks Restaurant opened this week at the Fountains at Farah. (facebook.com/TwinPeaksTheFountains)

The Fountains location will replace one less than a mile away at the Viscount Village shopping center. Another store which had a location at the center, Best Buy, also relocated to the Fountains. The two large, vacant spaces sandwich a TigerDirect.com store still open at Viscount Village.

Barnes & Noble’s new store is approximately 27,000 square feet and is located next to Dick’s Sporting Goods on the upper level at the Fountains at Farah. The book retailer has one other location in the city on the west side.

Another retailer, Rack Room Shoes, had a soft opening on October 3, but will celebrate a grand opening on October 19 with promotions and giveaways. The first 100 customers that day will receive unspecified gifts, and a $100 gift card will be raffled away.

The 15,000 square foot store is also located on the upper big-box area. It is the fourth Rack Room Shoes location in El Paso. 

Other Fountains stores and restaurants have had soft openings or will open soon. Ulta Beauty is already open, the third El Paso location. Twin Peaks Restaurant will open this week, according to its Facebook page. And TJ Maxx/HomeGoods opened this past weekend.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, and Stein Mart became the first stores to open at the center last month. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

CRRMA Readies for Opening of Toll Lanes

Drivers Can Use Border Highway Lanes in December

After years of construction, El Paso drivers will get to choose whether or not to use “managed” toll lanes on the Cesar Chavez Border Highway in December when construction is expected to be complete. And now the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) is preparing to educate the public about how the toll program will work.
The "managed" toll lane will be the innermost lane in each direction. Rates per mile will vary based on congestion and the time of day. (CRRMA)

The CRRMA board will review a presentation on the Cesar Chavez Managed Lanes Project at its meeting this week that will include details on the toll collection process and the marketing outreach that will roll out in the coming months.

Drivers on the nine mile stretch of the Border Highway between US-54 and the Zaragoza Port of Entry will still have two free lanes to use, while the additional toll lane will be the left-most lane in each direction. 

Rio Valley to Use Drainage Area as Skate Park

Construction has been ongoing at the future site of the Rio Valley community in El Paso’s Upper Valley, and crews this week are working on a concrete drainage area that will serve double duty. The approximately 80 by 35 foot area will also be used as a skate-park and has been designed with these dual uses in mind.

Design of the combination drainage area/skatepark at Rio Valley in the Upper Valley.
“The philosophy behind our inclusion of this improvement in our park is that we wanted a park that parents would see as attractive with facilities that could help keep kids entertained,” states Scott Winton of Winton Associates, the developer of the 62-acre Rio Valley neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

'Marriott' Brand Hotel Proposed for Downtown (Updated)

Update: City Council took no action on the agenda item at today's meeting. City officials need time to review the newest version of the proposal before making a decision.

Original Story:
City to Review, Vote on Incentives Today

A new, 15-story hotel may be built in Downtown El Paso in the coming years if a proposal is approved by City Council this week. Jim Scherr, the El Paso businessman who renovated the long-blighted International Hotel several years ago and turned it into the DoubleTree Hotel, would like to bring a new Courtyard by Marriott to Downtown but says he needs the City’s help to make it happen.
The proposed Courtyard by Marriott would be built adjacent to the DoubleTree Hotel.

Scherr has developed plans for the $17 million hotel at the corner of Wyoming Avenue and North El Paso Street, a stone’s throw from Interstate 10, which will add 140 rooms to Downtown’s inventory. The property currently has a parking lot that serves the adjacent DoubleTree Hotel.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Weekly Edition, Issue 27

The Weekly Edition, Issue 27 has arrived! Take a look at the newest issue of our Weekly Edition, by clicking HERE. (Note: The newsletter will open in PDF format.)

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sun Bowl Drive Project Moves Into Full Gear

Construction Will Last Through July 2014

Work to widen Sun Bowl Drive into a four-lane thoroughfare at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) is in full swing as crews have put protective barriers in place to protect passing vehicles from debris. Construction workers are “chipping away” at the rocky mountain on the western shoulders of Sun Bowl Drive according to the school’s On the Move website (www.onthemove.utep.edu).
Lanes on Sun Bowl Drive have been shifted as work has begun on the widening project. (www.onthemove.utep.edu)

The $4.8 million project will widen the roadway, construct five-foot sidewalks on each side, and install enhanced lighting along a half-mile stretch of Sun Bowl. The outside lane in each direction will also be wider than usual to allow for bicycle traffic. A roundabout will help control traffic at the roadway’s intersection with Glory Road.

“You’ve all undoubtedly noticed that the width of Sun Bowl Drive varies from two lanes to four, and that the remaining two-lane stretch creates a bottleneck and a safety risk,” UTEP President Diana Natalicio stated during groundbreaking for the project on September 16, 2013, pointing out the issues with traffic caused by the reduced lanes.

The school’s Campus Transformation may add to Sun Bowl Drive’s importance in handling traffic traveling around the campus; one of the Transformation’s goals is to remove vehicular traffic from the inner campus.

Sun Bowl Drive will remain open during construction, but officials urge caution due to shifted, temporary lanes. Drivers should expect delays.

Officials expect the project to last ten months, which means completion in July 2014. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Closer Look: 2014 Unified Transportation Program

TXDOT’s Program Document Gives Snapshot of Future Projects

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) programmed hundreds of millions of dollars earlier this year for El Paso’s Border Highway West extension, a project whose total budget could reach $800 million. That’s according to the state’s latest Unified Transportation Program (UTP), approved by the Texas Transportation Commission in June. 

TXDOT uses the UTP to authorize transportation projects for the state, but does not necessarily mean full present-day funding is available for each individual project. Although the Border Highway West has a certain budget in the document, only $300 million has been approved so far.

The nearly 1,200-page UTP includes about 30 pages dedicated to developments in the El Paso District. Timeframes in the report look forward about ten years from the present.

2014

Projects listed for Fiscal Year 2014, which began on September 1, 2013, are spread throughout the city and county. The largest listed in the document is construction of FM 3880 from Alameda Avenue to Interstate 10 in southeastern El Paso County in Tornillo. The new $17.2 million highway will help take traffic to and from the expanded port of entry at the Mexican border, currently under construction.

About $11.5 million is programmed for reconstruction of streets in Downtown El Paso. Another $5.5 million may be used to make improvements to Pan American Drive and Winn Road near the Zaragoza Port of Entry. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

UTEP Update: Centennial Countdown Begins

Welcome Center Now Open

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) began its 100-day Centennial Countdown last week with the unveiling of a large LED screen donated by GECU. The countdown clock will be displayed on the screen, which is fashioned into a Bhutanese style tower in front of the Centennial Museum.
The Centennial Countdown clock is located in front of the Centennial Museum. Confetti showers down on spectators during the September 23 unveiling. (centennial.utep.edu)

The countdown began amid fanfare, music, dancing, and speeches at the formal unveiling where UTEP officials celebrated the school’s past, present, and future.

“We’ve achieved much over the past 99 years and we have even bigger aspirations for the future,” stated UTEP President Diana Natalicio, adding, “We take great pride in the achievements of our alumni and share out students’ dreams for a bright future.”

Limited edition Centennial wines are available
now, created by Miner Winery of Napa Valley.
A new Centennial Welcome Center has been added to the museum, the official headquarters for the Centennial Celebration. It will feature exhibits on the school’s history, photographs showing the campus throughout the years, and a children’s learning area.

A gift shop has also been added and will feature limited edition Centennial Wines in white and red varieties. The wines come from the Miner Winery in Napa Valley, California. A Centenario Salsa line will also be available and was created by Desert Pepper Trading Company.