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City plans to improve frustrating travels over international bridges

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Traffic jams on and near El Pasos international bridges are a major headache for drivers and a safety issue for pedestrians that the city is trying to fix.

The city is teaming up with Texas Department of Transportation to work on a number of improvement projects.  Its something international travelers said is long overdue.
I swear to you there's been times where we've gone on the bridge and we've been on the bridge for 2 1/2 hours, said Cesar Romero, of northeast El Paso.
It's a traffic backup Romero said he deals with at least once a month to visit family in Juarez. 
He said while he doesn't know why traffic is typically so bad, he has heard several rumors.
There are so many rumors that its just customs agents taking forever; another rumor's that there's low staffing, said Romero.
While it may not address those possible problems, the city is teaming up with TxDot in hopes of slashing wait times.
City Manager Joyce Wilson said they will start by installing Bluetooth systems at the Paso Del Norte and Stanton port of entries with the goal of measuring wait times.
Then the city will work on the construction project Romero is looking forward to, which is, adding a special lane for pre-approved traffic, said Wilson.
Even if it meant like 20 to 25 minutes on the bridge, Id definitely pay for that, said Romero.
Romero said with wait times the way they currently are, when he gets off the bridge, You kind of get that relief, like, yes Im finally out and you start pressing on the gas.
But with the Paso Del Norte port of entry packed with people shopping and walking in the streets, pressing on the gas could be dangerous. It's one reason the city plans to add a roundabout coming off the downtown bridge.
It would allow traffic to continue to move, but it would also slow it down, said Wilson.
Wilson said while TxDot will fund 90 percent of the projects, the city will be overseeing them.

(We can) make sure they are advanced for expeditiously to meet our priorities, said Wilson.
Within the citys deal with TxDot they will also fix up some of our city's bridges, including the Kansas Street Bridge. Wilson said most of these projects should be completed by September 2014.