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County approves $400 million to ease drive around Borderland
By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas--County Commissioners approved a $400 million mobility plan to make it easier for drivers to get around the Borderland.
Sometimes getting stuck in El Paso traffic feels unavoidable, especially for drivers commuting across town.
"It's pretty hectic, I say I kind of hate it in the mornings," said Estefany Ramos, who commutes from the east side to the University of Texas at El Paso every day.
"On a good day it'll be about 45 minutes, on a bad day it could be upwards of an hour to an hour and a half," said Ernesto Hernandez, who drives from the east side to the west side for work.
The comprehensive mobility plan includes 16 transportation projects.
One of the first projects will create "Collector/Distributer" lanes to relieve congestion on 1-10 between Executive Center and Mesa Street.
That will allow for longer distance drivers to stay in an express lane while allowing local traffic to enter and exit the interstate with more ease.
Other projects include adding a connector near downtown, linking 1-10 to the border highway.
Several projects center around the Eastlake area in Far East El Paso to help anticipate transportation demands that come with growth.
"What we are really trying to do is address congestion, whether that's congestion we have today or congestion that's coming with future developments," said Raymond Telles, executive director of the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority.
In a growing city, sitting idle on transportation is not an option.
"That would hold us back economically, we'd burn more fuel, we'd spend more time in our cars," said County Commissioner Pat Abeln.
The plan pulls money from several different groups.
Some of it is Texas Department of Transportation money derived from the gas tax that everyone pays every time they fill up at the pump.
"All of us fill our car, all the time, and every time we do it we are paying a federal and a state gas tax and those taxes, unless we go out and aggressively capture them, they go someplace else," said Abeln.
A portion will come from groups like The Metropolitan Planning Organization; communities like Socorro and Horizon will also pitch in.
A majority of the funds will come from the $10 increase in vehicle registration, which the county approved earlier this year. This serves as a user fee, meaning if you don't have a vehicle and you don't drive on the roadways, you're not paying into the pot. It also keeps the burden off of homeowners.
"It's a very equitable way to finance projects," said Abeln,
Having alternative routes and quick commutes is something some El Pasoans tell us they're willing to pay for.
"El Paso is growing really fast and I think that the transportation, the roads, has lacked. I think it's great that they are doing that because really if we want to be a better city and be out there with the rest we have to improve our transportation system," said Ramos.
The projects are scheduled in phases and all are slated to begin within the next five years.