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El Paso: TxDOT Suggests a ‘Klyde Warren Park’ Option with Interstate 10 Expansion

Feature Photo (above): The Pearl Apartments at 220 W. Yandell Drive is one of many commercial buildings that would have to be demolished for the I-10 expansion. Image: Google Streets.

Posted: 6-4-2019

by Adolfo Pesquera

El Paso (El Paso County) — The El Paso District Office of the Texas Department of Transportation is hoping to be ready to present a final plan on its latest incarnation of Interstate 10 by the first quarter of 2020.

Courtesy: TxDOT El Paso District.

The Reimagine I-10 El Paso study began in 2017 and its scope takes into account a 55-mile stretch the extends from the New Mexico state line north to FM 3380 southeast of the city.

There were public outreach meetings in 2017 and 2018, but it wasn’t until the meetings of January 2019 that TxDOT was able to present four refined alternatives and identify their preferred alternative.

TxDOT is using the year 2042 as its comparable for how traffic will change if nothing is done. Leaving the interstate as is would reduce average speeds to from 14 to 27 mph at numerous chokes points during peak hours through the city, versus maintaining average speeds  at 56 to 60 mph with the new construction.

In general, the concepts propose widening the interstate from three to four lanes in each direction and introducing several new innovative interchanges along the route.

However, Segment 2, which runs through downtown from Executive Center Boulevard to Raynolds Street, is the most congested section and the first segment TxDOT wants to expand.

It is also the section that has drawn the most attention from El Pasoans. TxDOT estimates the downtown section of Segment 2– a four-mile stretch from Schuster Avenue to Copia Street–could cost about $1.1 billion.

On May 14, City Council approved a resolution in support of a bundle of road improvement projects that include Segment 2. Stakeholders in the downtown area are raising concerns over a five-block alignment of the project that would require acquisition of private properties for the widening of I-10.

The blocks highlighted in yellow would become part of the expanded expressway. Courtesy: TxDOT.

These acquisitions could be done through negotiated sales. Failing that, TxDOT could condemn the properties and acquire them through eminent domain. The properties being targeted by TxDOT include the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, Paso del Norte Academy, the RECON (a modern steel and glass office building), two apartment buildings in the Sunset Heights Historic District, and several other small commercial structures.

None of this will happen until the District Office settles on its preferred concept and gets the Texas Transportation Commission in Austin to fund it.

The five-block downtown segment that requires land acquisition would be for a sunken highway. TxDOT has suggested that the city could come in after it’s widened and build or partial or full deck above that highway. The city could then develop the deck in any number of ways. A park or some other recreational use has been suggested.

Any kind of development on a deck would have to be funded by the city.

This was first attempted in Texas in downtown Dallas, where Klyde Warren Park was constructed above a section of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway at a cost of $110 million. Since then, the Houston District of TxDOT has been planning a sunken freeway system around sections of downtown that would also have decks. (See: Houston Downtown District Unveils 20-Year Redevelopment Plan).

The city of Austin had hopes of constructing a capped sunken freeway system on the downtown stretch of Interstate 35, but TxDOT’s current plans on that $8 billion expansion do not include them. There are, however, plans for tunnels connecting I-35 to the University of Texas.