El Paso, TX — A combined ten million dollar effort to improve pedestrian roadways and bridges in Central El Paso is approved Tuesday but not before sharp debate in city council.
City Council approved the motion to swap funding sources which officials say will not cost the city a penny more. But this wasn't enough to assure some representatives.
The item seemed simple enough. TXDOT would move their funding to a city project, and the city in turn would do the same for the federal agency. Before reps could agree -- they wanted to know what's in it for their district.
"We're swapping money. It's smoke and mirrors. That's what it is,” a frustrated City Rep. Lily Limon of District 7 addressed the council.
Limon had some issues with the project, city documents show TXDOT will provide up to $10 million to build several new pedestrian walkways and to improve the landscaping along major highways. In return the city will provide up to $10 million to improve vehicle bridges along I-10 in Central El Paso and to make aesthetic improvements from Copia to Chelsea. The funding swap is necessary -- because of stipulations on how federal money can be spent.
"I’m confused really we don't want to lose the money but again we have to have the proper information. And if yesterday we would have had that information we wouldn't be talking about it today,” Mayor Oscar Leeser told council.
But the confusion today -- centered on the ballpark. Some feared the money was being spent on a walkway over I-10 for fans wanting to attend Chihuahuas games. “The unfortunate situation on this issue was that I got two totally different answers. One was a yes there was funds that was going to be used for the park and the other one was no,” Rep. Limon told us.
The city's manager's office claims a pedestrian walkway will be constructed near the ballpark. But it's one of many -- and the plans were in the works long before ballpark plans took shape. City Rep. Michiel Noe also vetted his concerns -- he feels the multimillion dollar aesthetic project would be better used for lighting. "and there are some streets in my district that have absolutely no lights. I was just simply trying to get, making it clear that those should be the highest priority. Certainly priority over aesthetics,” City Rep. Michiel Noe, District 5 explained.
Both reps ultimately decided to compromise and the item passed. The city's engineering departments said it will take years to finish both projects.