The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) wants to widen and reconstruct Interstate 10 through Central El Paso. The regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), most local elected leaders, and the monied interests in the city’s Chamber of Commerce are all in favor. This massive, billion-dollar boondoggle is not only unnecessary, but will permanently damage the character of downtown and the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods.
In my recent column in El Paso Matters, I point out widening the highway will induce further demand. Nevertheless, it remains the centerpiece of a flawed $7-billion long-range plan that ultimately does little to reduce highway congestion.
TxDOT began the project in 2016 with its Reimagine I-10 analysis of the highway through El Paso County. The study was flawed from its inception, because it failed to consider rerouting the highway around the city by incorporating a bypass as part of a comprehensive plan to reduce traffic in the city.
Interstate 10 is the major southern transcontinental highway. From the West Coast, it turns south at Las Cruces, New Mexico, and enters Texas from the north. Just past the University of Texas at El Paso, before downtown El Paso, it turns east again. US 54 runs from the Bridge of the Americas Port of Entry with Mexico in Central El Paso, north through Alamogordo, New Mexico, and into the Midwest.
Anyone who can read a map can see that the Anthony Gap, north of El Paso in New Mexico, provides a level, unpopulated route around the city that would not increase distance to cross-country travel. While a four-lane roadway through the Anthony Gap is under construction, it is not a limited access highway. The proposed Borderland Expressway in Texas, which would complete the bypass, is not scheduled for completion until after widening I-10 thorough the city.
The Border West Highway, the final segment of Loop 375 around the city, was recently completed. Though currently free, the section around downtown along the border is posted as a toll road and it is underutilized. While Loop 375 provides a bypass for cars, the segment over the mountain is too steep for trucks.