L’Trench

TxDOT, the Texas Department of Transportation, seems dead set on widening the freeway in downtown El Paso, and not without meeting some resistance.

Here’s the most recent column Sito Negron wrote for the El Paso Times:

The Texas Department of Transportation is proposing widening Interstate 10 and adding frontage roads in and around Downtown. This is a bad idea.

The proposal requires taking or ruining the value of hundreds of homes and businesses from Sunset Heights to Piedras Street. The 100-plus properties along Missouri Avenue east of Downtown would disappear; those along Wyoming Avenue would have freeway frontage roads in their backyards. 

The Trench, the depressed portion of the highway through Downtown, would expand, taking all properties along Yandell Drive from Santa Fe Street to Campbell Street. High-speed frontage roads would edge Sunset Heights, bringing traffic, noise, vibration and pollution. Through streets would be cut off, restricting the connectivity of our well-designed historic city grid while increasing traffic on the remaining accessible streets. The Prospect Street Bridge would be demolished.

From where I live, here in Barrio Heights, widening the freeway and turning Yandell into a high-speed access road seems like a bad idea.

And expensive, too. TxDOT is willing to shell out a lot of money to put a deck over the freeway downtown, but whatever goes on top of the deck will be someone else’s responsibility. Illustrations from TxDOT show a park and some kind of a ziggurat. (A ziggurat. I swear.)

And TxDOT really seems to be digging in their heals to get the trench widened.

Weird, innit?

El Paso’s population has flatlined since 2012. Our population has grown a little more than one percent since 2012. For the most recent year, our population growth declined, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Whatever growth we’re experiencing, from migration within the city, seems to be taking place mostly on the east side, and the west side just got that new toll road from Mesa Road to downtown.

Kids are driving less. From the Wall Street Journal:

If teenagers are any guide, Americans’ love affair with the automobile may no longer be something car makers can bank on.

The percentage of teens with a driver’s license has tumbled in the last few decades and more young people are delaying purchasing their first car—if buying one at all, say analysts, generational experts and car industry executives. About a quarter of 16-year-olds had a driver’s license in 2017, a sharp decline from nearly half in 1983, according to an analysis of licensing data by transportation researcher Michael Sivak.

Whereas a driver’s license once was a symbol of freedom, teenagers are reaching their driving age at a time when most have access to ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft to shuttle them around town. At the same time, social media and video chat let them hang out with friends without actually leaving the house.

And when autonomous vehicles hit the asphalt, the cars on the road will be closer together. Trucks will be linked electronically in long, robotic, road trains, and they’ll all brake simultaneously instead of sequentially.

It sure looks like traffic will be lighter in the future, not heavier.

So it’s weird, isn’t it, that TxDOT is so adamant about widening the freeway downtown. One would think that they’d say, “Well, then the hell with y’all. If you don’t want us to spend a big chunk of money to widen the freeway and put a deck over it, then fooey on you.”

But they’re not saying that.

Weird, innit?

8 comments

  1. Well, let’s not lose sight of the fact that no matter what route you’re talking about, just about every Interstate highway in the nation is obsolete the day it is opened. Infrastructure is always lagging behind real need, innit?

  2. When I came to El Paso to live eleven years ago, one of the first things I saw was a photo in the Museum of History of a flood in Central El Paso in the mid 1950’s inundating a huge area, houses and all, before I-10 was built. So then when I-10 was built, it created a dam which backed up flood waters. Did the TXDOT engineers just ignore the possibility of floods when they designed I-10? Floods occurred from time to time and more development occurred in the area prone to flooding. Eventually, as we saw in the last few years, El Paso Water to the rescue! A Tunnel under I-10 and large holding ponds north of I-10 to significantly reduce chance of flooding – paid for by guess who – the ratepayers – all of us. This is another example of fool me once, same on you, fool me twice shame on me. This trench is a bad idea for many reasons. The mistakes of the past continue to have repercussions in the present. No reason to think that will change with a new project.

  3. Interstate 10 through EL Paso is a major well traveled road East to west (and vice versa) not only for El Pasoan’s but the rest of the country too!
    I move “to build an upper deck to bypass this bottleneck.”

  4. Let’s bypass the bottleneck by routing truck traffic around the city via the Anthony Gap. We could build a little truckers’ paradise out there in Northeast El Paso, with truck stops and all night diners are strip clubs. We could all do with a little less diesel through-traffic on I-10 in the city.

  5. Dear Elrichiboy,
    I agree but an Anthony Gap 18 wheel trucker paradise would require assistance of the state of New Mexico to build…oh oh problemo.
    Regards
    RS

    1. If you look for problems, you’ll find problems. If you look for answers, you’ll find answers.

  6. That new toll road doesn’t run from Mesa Road to downtown. It runs from Sunland Park, past Downtown, and halfway to the Zoo. In fact: Some genius nixed a Downtown offramp all together.

  7. Here’s the problem. We’re screwed. Here’s the answer. Get out of town fast. Just like our kids did. The wisdom of youth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.