Monday, June 30, 2014

Closer Look: Newly Funded Transportation Projects

Transportation Commission Approves $97M for Streetcars

The Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) approved a minute order last week that green-lights funding for two large transportation projects in El Paso, including the long-awaited streetcar project slated for the Downtown/University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) areas.
A rusting streetcar sits on El Paso International Airport land in this 2008 photograph. (Historic Trolley Streetcar Initiative Report)

The TTC approved $97 million for the streetcar project as a “regional multimodal” development, serving the I-10 “congested corridor.” The funding will support construction of 4.8 miles of track that will transport riders from Downtown El Paso, including areas near the ports of entry, to UTEP and the nearby Cincinnati entertainment district.

According to the TTC’s Unified Transportation Program update, the streetcar line will include 27 stops. The route, as chosen by City Council, will travel north on Oregon Street, turn east on Glory Road, and then back south on Stanton Street. A circulator will also travel in a loop around Downtown El Paso’s core. New funding is also intended to cover vehicle maintenance and storage facilities.

The City of El Paso performed an engineering and environmental study and chose a route for the streetcar line in 2012 after the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) signaled that $90 million could be available for the project with the City’s cooperation.

However, once the study was completed, there was little to no further information on funding the project from TXDOT and TTC officials. Now, more than two years after the City approved funding the study, the project could break ground as early as the second half of 2014.
The final two connectors of the Americas Interchange project received funding at last week's Texas Transportation Commission meeting. They are the northbound to eastbound and southbound to eastbound ramps. (CRRMA)

The TTC also reprogrammed $35 million from one project to another as part of its minute order. The final two direct connector ramps that are part of the Americas Interchange in Far East El Paso can now be built, completing the project that began with construction of three direct connectors in 2010. The fourth, fifth, and sixth ramps are currently under construction.