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TxDOT hosts open house to update public on Border Highway Expressway

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EL PASO, Texas - State transportation officials unveiled their latest plans for the new Border Highway Expressway Thursday.

Officials hosted an open house at the Hilton Garden Inn for the public to see the changes that are planned. Experts from the environmental, right-of-way, maintenance and traffic, equipment and walls teams were all on hand to speak with drivers and community members about the construction.

This meeting was meant to, "give people the opportunity to come in to speak with us about exactly what we are doing, how it will impact their typical commute and what they can expect in the future once everything is done," said Mandra Ryan, a spokeswoman for the project.

Construction on the $600 million project is already underway. It expected to be completed in the fall of 2017.

"It is going to be the alternative route to I-10. A lot of times when there is a car accident on I-10, you are stuck. So, the Border West Expressway is going to be just that -- an expressway. It is a toll road that people can take to get from downtown to the west side or from the west side to downtown, and hopefully in an expedited manner," Ryan said.

In order to get all of the work done, several roadways need to be closed down, old roads will need to be demolished and 34 new bridges will need to be built. One of those bridges will be a mile long.

Another issue in the way of construction: the Globe Mills plant.

"Those buildings will be torn down because the road does go directly through that area," Ryan said.

No demolition date has been set as of yet for the 107-year-old former flour factory, McKinney Wrecking and the rescue mission.

"That will all eventually be completely cleared out and most of it will be a retention area and some of it will be landscaped. So it will look a lot different to go through that area," Bob Bielek, the El Paso District for TXDOT.

However, Bielek said that the construction project was more than a way to relieve congestion, it will also help TXDOT work on I-10 in the future. TxDOT officials say this project is essential because the pavement on I-10 is reaching the end of its useful life.

Bob Beilik, a district engineer for TxDOT, said once the Border West Expressway and the Go I-10 projects are finished, the department will be able to focus on revamping some of the older sections of I-10.

"It gives us the ability to reroute traffic and then give them a path around the downtown area by I-10 so that we can get in there and do the reconstruction that we have to do," he said.

The Border West Expressway will double the traffic capacity through the area, according to Bielek.

One of the key issues project officials stressed at the open house was worker safety.

Texas has one of the highest rates for construction zone driving accidents, and the Texas Department of Transportation is aiming to end that trend.

Officials said there will be some traffic headaches at first, but it will make for a smoother commute in the long run.

"You know with any construction project, there are some growing pains," Ryan said.

They are asking drivers to be patient, to slow down in construction zones and to stay off of their cellphones.

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