POSTED: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 5:23pm
UPDATED: Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 3:21pm
EL PASO - Cuts to transportation could mean paying more at the pump through a gas tax and one revenue stream is already in motion - toll roads.
"Transportation costs are going to increase, they're only going to increase as the cost of gas goes up," said Roy Gilyard, executive director of El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization. The price of gas may be going up, but state and federal funding for transportation isn't.
"When you're looking at building a transportation system that's 20, 25 years into the future, you have to look at what your population be by then," he said.
The city's movers, shakers, and planners are looking at a projected 3.2 million population in the borderland over the next several decades. So Gilyard and TXDOT got creative. They decided to implement managed lanes, also known as toll lanes, on loop 375 between the Zaragoza port of entry and the Bridge of Americas.
"Revenues generated by the Cesar Chavez project will stay in the region," Gilyard said.
For a cool $80 million, the highway will be reconstructed to become three lanes in each direction. Two lanes will be free. One lane will be an optional toll lane - think of it like a carpool lane. And while it may get you there faster, you will have to fork over at least 10 cents every mile. The project is already in motion, but there's mixed opinions on the change.
"If it'll help the city build roads, why not?" said Greg Huguley.
"The gas, the milk, the eggs, everything is up right now, especially the rents out here," said Wendy Huerta, who doesn't want to pay more for her commute, too.
Representative Joe Pickett says El Paso's toll roads will be unique because if they don't bring in enough revenue in 15 years, they're out of here. Other options to raise revenue for roads include a gas tax and mass transit.
"Light rail, commuter rail between El Paso and Juarez, between El Paso and Las Cruces," Gilyard said.
Construction on the 375 should begin in a couple of months and it will last about two years. But TXDOT says the highway will be open one lane in each direction during construction.