A final-ditch effort by El Paso County Commissioner David Stout did not cease the four-member Texas Transportation Fee from approving the Interstate 10 enlargement challenge in Downtown as a part of its $85.1 billion Unified Transportation Program (UTP) this week.

This system units the development priorities for the Texas Division of Transportation over the subsequent 10 years. Stout traveled to Austin on Aug. 30 in an try and persuade the fee to carry off on together with the El Paso challenge till alternate options could possibly be reviewed and native considerations addressed.

In keeping with a press release from the Texas Transportation Fee, the Downtown I-10 challenge was accepted in final 12 months’s UTP and was accepted this 12 months for a rise of greater than $300 million, roughly half of which is able to come from the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Group (MPO) Transportation Coverage Board.

“The El Paso MPO recognized this challenge because the primary precedence for the area in its Regional Mobility Technique (RMS) 2020, which obtained resolutions of assist from the Metropolis and County of El Paso,” the Texas Transportation Fee mentioned in an emailed assertion.

Nonetheless, Stout opposes the challenge on quite a few grounds.

“It is a challenge with which, in its present type, I do not agree,” Stout mentioned in an interview. “I am not in favor of increasing I-10 Downtown. TxDOT has not given this group an evidence for the necessity to do that.”

Stout mentioned the fee laid out three premises for increasing the freeway, together with the necessity to deal with its structural integrity, site visitors congestion and security.

The Transportation Fee defined the necessity for the challenge.

“The aim of the challenge is to supply long-term transportation options for the El Paso area,” the fee mentioned in its assertion. “These options will enhance mobility and long-term congestion administration, cut back and enhance incident administration by offering steady frontage roads, and convey the interstate as much as present design requirements. The proposed enhancements embody reconstruction of the mainlanes, retaining partitions, bridges, ramps, and cross streets to beat deterioration of pavement and bridges.”

On the primary level, Stout agrees.

“I do know it is outdated and must be changed,” Stout mentioned. “We do not need accidents as a result of the freeway is falling aside.”

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On the opposite two factors, nevertheless, Stout firmly disagreed, saying that congestion within the Downtown space was not as massive of an issue as it’s in different components of city. He additionally asserted that a lot of the site visitors seen Downtown stems from drivers touring to and from the border and different components of town.

“I feel it is fairly generally recognized … that widening highways is just not an answer to lowering congestion,” Stout mentioned. “Even when there have been congestion, including extra lanes to the freeway is simply going to provide extra site visitors. It could be a brief repair … however in the long term, it is not.”

Stout cited the Katy Freeway within the Houston space, which has 14 lanes in both route however nonetheless suffers from excessive site visitors and congestion.

“There’s nonetheless gridlock on that freeway,” Stout mentioned. “I simply do not perceive why TxDOT continues to gaslight this group and inform us there is a want for this enlargement when there’s not.”

District 2 El Paso County Commissioner David Stout sits in entrance of a map together with his district highlighted in orange.

Stout famous that town has employed a third-party advisor to evaluation the modeling and information being utilized by TxDOT for the enlargement development, which at present has no projected begin date, in an effort to “debunk the arguments TxDOT is making.”

A tough draft of the advisor’s evaluation was offered a number of months in the past, Stout mentioned, and a ultimate draft must be submitted within the subsequent few weeks.

Whereas Stout contests the state’s reasoning for pushing for the challenge, which he mentioned is “not a community-led challenge” however a “developer-led challenge,” he additionally voiced concern over its affect on the group surrounding the realm, together with elevated air pollution, noise, vibration and the creation of an city warmth island.

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“These are traditionally underprivileged Black and brown communities that have been displaced,” Stout mentioned of these dwelling within the space the place the 6-mile development challenge is ready to happen. “That is only a doubling down of that.”

“We now have requested TxDOT to hold ahead different alternate options that do not have to do with widening the freeway or including frontage roads,” Stout mentioned. “It’ll be ugly. The aesthetics are going to be horrible. That is going to be one of the impactful tasks in my lifetime in El Paso and it must be carried out correctly.”

Past these considerations, Stout additionally questioned whether or not the ends justify the means.

“This isn’t a forward-thinking challenge,” Stout mentioned. “That is doing the identical actual factor that was carried out within the ’60s and inflicting extra injury. This isn’t a challenge that appears to higher the standard of life for residents. It is wonderful to me that the tip profit, spending near a billion {dollars}, is that vehicles will have the ability to get by means of Downtown 5 minutes sooner between 5 and 6 p.m.”

“That is some huge cash to be spending on such a small profit,” he continued. “That is lots of people’s lives you are placing at risk for such a tiny, minuscule profit.”

Stout famous that whereas many El Pasoans, in addition to metropolis and state representatives, are trying ahead to the enlargement, together with the “massive, lovely, shiny prospect of a pleasant park that is being dangled in entrance of our eyes to attempt to distract us from the actual points at hand,” the county has been unified in its opposition to the challenge.

Nonetheless, the Transportation Fee mentioned that it obtained resolutions of assist for the challenge from each metropolis and county leaders, including that it has “sturdy assist” from El Paso’s state delegation, a few of whom voiced their backing through the latest assembly.

“Our state delegation could be in favor of it, town could be in favor of it … however I feel the county is the lone dissenter on this and we are going to proceed to strive to verify this challenge is just not detrimental,” Stout mentioned. “I feel our advocacy up so far has already made the challenge higher.”

Whereas Stout’s try and delay prioritizing the challenge was a bust, he believes the hassle was value it.

“I perceive that this was most likely an effort in futility, however I really feel like if we do not increase our voices, then we won’t say we have carried out something, so I assumed it was vital for them to see, to grasp, what is going on on in El Paso,” Stout mentioned. “I assumed we might be remiss if we did not increase our voices.”

This text initially appeared on El Paso Instances: Texas Transportation Fee greenlights Downtown I-10 enlargement