Downtown businesses will be negatively impacted by new TxDOT construction
TXDot updated El Paso business owners on all of the construction plans on Wednesday afternoon. TXDot Engineer Bob Bielek said the new plans will give a lot more fluidity to the border highways and auxiliary roads to I-10.
Bielek said we are going to have Loop 375 completed through Downtown El Paso, and it will be tolled as you head west out of El Paso's downtown. He said the plan is to add more interconnection roads, like what we call the Spaghetti Bowl today. Those are going to exist in three or four additional areas, including on the West Side and the East Side.
Executive Center to Sunland Park will have access roads on both sides to help alleviate the traffic on I-10, and that Executive Center on-ramp won’t open until 2018.
As for the historic Lincoln Center, they are going to look for some kind of use for it that will make it efficient instead of tearing it down.
Several El Paso business owners said this has already affected their customer traffic. The Dream Chasers Gallery downtown was totally empty Wednesday. Owner Matthew Martinez said that is his new normal.
"It's a little difficult with all of the construction to even get to my store,” Martinez said. "Dealing with dust, dealing with noise, dealing with sidewalks being blocked off. It definitely affects it."
"The future of El Paso is predicated on us being able to be mobile, getting around this town. So yes, it's a lot of suffering with a lot of orange barrels,” said El Paso Central Business Association Founder Tanny Berg. "There's no question businesses are impacted, their business goes down. There are remedies. TXDOT has certain fundings that they have available to help people get through those periods."
Bielek said our roads are 55 years old. If we don't make adjustments now, it will be horrific in two decades.
“They won't even exist in 20 years,” Bielek said. “The problem is the concrete pavement has an expected life of 50 years. We're running heavier vehicles and more vehicles on the pavement than was ever intended."
“I-10 isn’t going to get bigger on its own, and El Paso is going to have more and more traffic over the next 20 to 30 years. If we don’t consider how we’re going to add capacity to our major ONE arterial that we have, I-10, it’s going to be a legacy of a lot of problems for the future of our community,” Berg said.
Bielek said to be patient because it's not something TXDot can fix overnight.
"It's going to happen. There's nothing that you or I can do about it except lay back and don't stress ourselves out. That just shortens our life,” Bielek said.
"In the long run, we'll have a much better community for it,” Berg said. “Get involved. We can make things better with your involvement. No matter who you are, wherever you live in this community, get engaged. TXDOT has community meetings. Go to those community meetings and let your opinion be heard! Because we can actually make changes that will affect you. And our children. And your grandchildren.”
Martinez said despite the loss of business, he is actually excited about the new construction.
"I'm excited for the progression,” he said. “Just bear with the streets, be interested in the arts downtown, come and visit us... because we're open! We're open and we're here for El Paso.”