TxDOT Isn’t Building Us a Deck

The cap isn’t TxDOT’s purview.

TxDOT does transportation. The deck park is a public amenity.

TxDOT is, however, expanding I-10 downtown. And they’ll make sure that the sides of the roadway are sturdy enough to support that wonderful deck park that certain private interests have been pitching us, trying to convince us that we cannot live without a deck park.

And come on, that park looks great. Green space. A dog park. Maybe even some of those splash parks that our City Manager is so fond of.

But the cap, the deck, the structure over the freeway, that’s our responsibility.

TxDOT isn’t paying for that.

Someone else is will have to pay for that. The Paso del Norte Foundation has launched the Downtown Deck Foundation to raise funds for the deck plaza, but I suspect they won’t raise enough money to cover the whole tab, which will run, I figger, into several hundreds of millions of dollars.

(I lifted those images above from the PdN Foundation’s DowntownDeckPlaza.org.)

Maybe the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization will chip in. That’s federal money. I’m always happy to take federal tax money, because someone is going to get it, and it might as well be us, but when the El Paso MPO spends those federal funds, I always want to ask, “What else might they have spent that money on?”

Eventually, I suspect that all those well-meaning folks will turn to the local public sector to chip in with some matching funds.

They’ll tell us that the Downtown Deck Plaza will be “transformative,” like every other downtown project they’ve sold us for the last 20 years. The Deck Plaza will be the one that puts us over the hump, they’ll tell us. Like the Plaza Theatre was supposed to. Like the Union Plaza renaissance. Like the Quality of Life bond projects.

They keep singing us the same song. Only the singers and the words change.

Which brings us to the crux of the decision-making issues. Some people have a vested interest in which projects get funded by these public entities. They might hire lobbyists, or work the horn themselves. They might do some backslapping and handshaking and make some political or philanthropic contributions. They might buy dinner and drinks and be someone’s best friend.

Many of these decisions are made away from the public eye. Many of these decisions are made by committees made up of elected officials. Many of these decisions benefit the select few.

Many of these decisions don’t get the public scrutiny their price tags warrant. Many of these decisions don’t represent the public good.

So we’ll see. Our public officials are spending our tax dollars on what’s good for them, and trying to tell us it’s good for us. We’ve spent the last ten years running up debt with little real advancement.

The problem in El Paso is that we have rich people running the local government and they’re making the poor people pay for their grandiose rich people dreams. And the poor people are either too busy working to worry about it, or they’re brainwashed into thinking that they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

Have mercy on us.

9 comments

  1. Had to take the wife downtown this morning for her Covid shot. Hadn’t been there for a while, and haven’t seen that many people in one place downtown since forever. So many empty storefronts. So much dead space. Maybe it is time to leave downtown to its own devices, and start concentrating on the rest of the city.

  2. It has always been apparent to me that low wages is what keeps El Pasoans from the voting booth.
    This citizenry is by and large too disheartened to pay attention to what we are all paying for.

    1. “Low wages” doesn’t cover it. We live in a culture of exploitation. The rich people make the mistakes, and the poor people pay for them. And there’s never any accountability.

      We need to wake the sleeping giant.

      Un abrazo fuerte.

  3. Rich – honest question for you. I think we both agree that widening I-10 is a frickin’ awful idea that is will be both a complete waste of money and massively destructive to the urban fabric of El Paso. If it were at all in my power to stop it, I would be doing whatever I could.

    But as we both know, TXDOT doesn’t give a flying crap about the impact their projects have on local communities. Their only goal is to move vehicles as quickly as possible across the state, local communities be damned. So if they’ve already decided they’re going to widen I-10, we’re powerless to stop it.

    If there’s nothing we can do to prevent a massively destructive, completely unnecessary expansion of I-10, shouldn’t we at least try to repair the awful scar that the project will leave behind? I’d rather we not build a deck park because I’d rather they not widen I-10. But if it’s gonna happen anyways, wouldn’t you rather have a park over the freeway instead of a horrible, noisy freeway running through the middle of town?

    1. I think the deck park has been in the works since Ted Houghton ran TxDOT. If someone, anyone, were to take on the expense of the deck park, and the soccer stadium that MountainStar has been quietly promoting, I wouldn’t bitch quite so loudly.

      But the deck and the downtown arena and defunding the Coliseum are all part of the critical path to the taxpayers funding MountainStar’s soccer stadium.

      I’m tired of the rich people charging the poor people for the amenities the rich people need to make El Paso livable for them.

      And it’s always one more thing. They’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars and no one except the developers has seen any benefit.

      Like I always ask, what could we have spent that money on? If we’d been trying to help all the citizens of El Paso, what could we have done with two billion dollars in debt?

      And how, exactly, are all those projects going get us to economic development? What, McDonnell Douglas is going to say “Look, they’ve got Triple A baseball. Let’s build a factory!” No, we’re just building amenities so the rich kids won’t move to San Diego, but they’re moving to San Diego anyway.

      1. Well said Rich. I can’t argue with you there. If there’s nothing than can be done to stop TXDOT from widening the freeway, I’d personally like to see a deck park, but I agree that the City shouldn’t be charging the taxpayer to make it happen.

  4. I thought the Wolf Lodge corporation was going to pay for it by withholding from all the minimum wage jobs they were bringing!

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