EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – An independent study approved by the El Paso County Commissioners Court contests the need for added lanes on Interstate 10 near Downtown.
The study conducted by Vermont-based Smart Mobility, Inc. claims estimates by the Texas Department of Transpiration’s El Paso office and El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization are inaccurate.
Smart Mobility, Inc.’s study analyzed data and models produced by TxDOT for an addition of lanes to I-10 in and near Downtown El Paso. Currently, TxDOT has a proposal out for public comment that would reinvigorate the highway.
The project limits of the segment stretch between Executive Center Boulevard to Loop 478 where Copia Street is. TxDOT officials say the improvements would address mobility and long-term congestion management while reducing incidents and bring the highway up to modern standards.
Norman Marshall, the president of Smart Mobility, which is a transportation and modeling firm, told the commissioners court on Thursday similar approaches in other urban areas have failed.
“It’s a huge expense involved to shift more local traffic to I10 during peak periods,” Marshall said. “And, the regional model overestimates the benefits of that.”
Commissioner of Precinct 2 David Stout said he has questioned TxDOT’s proposal to add lanes to the Downtown portion of I10.
“This report shows persuasive data from a nationally recognized expert that the need to widen and add frontage roads is overstated,” Stout said. “The report even indicates that there is valuable information we do not have access to, the 2050 modeling files.”
When asked for comment, TxDOT provided KTSM with links to its proposal for Interstate 10. And, that the project is still in a public commenting process.
A third public meeting is planned for Fall 2022 for the Downtown I10 project.
Steve Ortega, a member of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce’s Mobility Coalition, said Interstate 10 has not had significant changes or investment since the 1960’s when El Paso’s population was significantly lower and commercial traffic utilized the highway less.
Ortega questioned why criticism of the proposal to add lanes in Downtown are not also carried over to expansion of the highway near Mesa and the state line. The only difference between the two is the Downtown proposal comes with a deck park option, he added.
Ortega says he is concerned about traffic flow and how it will be impacted in the near future if nothing is done to improve the interstate.
“In the future, if you’re stuck in traffic on the freeway, you can thank those politicians who are against these much needed highway improvements,” Ortega said. “You can also thank them if you don’t like parks.”
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