The Deck Park and the Health Costs of More Traffic

Here’s an op-ed from Morten Naess in the El Paso Times:

As a retired Sierra Medical Center emergency room physician, I’ve been alarmed by recent medical literature showing exactly how air pollution caused by vehicles harms El Pasoans’ health. I’m also troubled that the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (PDNHF), this community’s major public health non-profit, is advocating for a huge but archaic infrastructure project that may make pollution worse.

A recent review article in the distinguished New England Journal of Medicine makes clear that exposure to micro-particles and toxic gases, at any level and even for short periods, increases the incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, and deaths. Years ago, El Pasoans were surprised to learn that lead spewed by the ASARCO plant damaged our children’s intellectual and neurological development. Years later, numerous studies show that El Paso children exposed to vehicular air pollution suffer academically and show decreased lung function.

So why is PDNHF risking more pollution in El Paso by pushing for a deck plaza Downtown? 

The El Paso Chamber of Commerce is promoting the idea on behalf of downtown developers, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), politicians, and PDNHF.

. . .

But what PDNHF doesn’t say is that a deck park over I-10 would be a devil’s bargain for community health. That’s because it would require massive, very expensive posts to hold it up. TXDoT is tying the building and financing of those posts, which would support just a few blocks of deck, to widening I-10 and adding frontage roads for six miles. But a widened I-10 means more cars and trucks, with their risk of producing pollution.  

Some promoters of widening argue that pollution will go down because stop-start traffic emits the most poison, and a roomier highway will decrease traffic jams. But there are virtually no traffic jams on the six-mile segment of I-10. And even if there were, promoters ignore studies showing that within a few years after highways are enlarged, they fill up again, with more traffic, traffic jams, and pollution.

Any future traffic jams will be alleviated by the Borderland Expressway, which will divert through traffic around the city via the Anthony Gap.

But none of our traffic experts or politicians want to talk about the Borderland Expressway. They’re all dead set on a deck park we the taxpayers will end up paying for, one way or another.

And, as Dr. Naess points out, we won’t just be paying with our checkbooks.

We’ll also be paying with our health.


  1. And how many years will it take to expand I-10 and build this “deck park?” So much for enhancing connectivity. Who is paying the Paso del Norte Health Foundation (!) to advocate building this pollution trapper? Think it is time to stop supporting them, as there is something really wrong here.

  2. Just look at their Board of Directors: PdNHF and offshoot, Paso del Norte Community Foundation. Same cast of characters.

  3. Does anyone remember how the Paso Del Norte Community Foundation was formed? Seems to me that it came about following the sale of Providence Memorial Hospital to the owners of Sierra Medical Center, and the previous owners of Providence (which was non-profit) announcement that the money made in that sale was going to be used to promote the health of El Pasoans. I think they long ago forgot their purpose, because we have been cursed with high levels of air pollution around here even after ASARCO closed down, and there has been no effort from these find folks to address that, to my knowledge.

  4. Thank you Rich for continuing to talk about this Deck and widening of I 10 issue, especially for sharing Morten Neass’s comments!
    Readers, please bring up this topic to every elected official with whom you come in contact. We need to stop this madness and I believe it is possible to stop it with community involvement.
    I support the the Borderland Expressway. Let’s ensure it has NO gateways that are a magnet for strip malls and big box stores. Also ensure the the Borderland Expressway has animal crossing infrastructure.

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