EL PASO, Texas -- A project designed to upgrade a section of Interstate 10 in downtown is creating a debate in El Paso County Commissioner’s Court even though no plans are finalized.
This week's commissioners court meeting opened the floor for the public to voice their opinion about the proposed project which could expand I-10 in downtown. A noteworthy speaker was former state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, who voiced his concern abou the project.
“It would change the character of our downtown forever,” he said during the meeting.
State Rep. Lina Ortega called in to show her support from the nation’s capital. She is the chair of the Transportation Policy Board for El Paso’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. The 30-member board voted last week to approve a proposal from the Texas Department of Transportation to add the Downtown 10 project to the agency’s Unified Transportation Program.
“I know that the change is difficult, but the improvements that are being looked at and are being studied with regard to segment two is very important for El Paso,” she said.
Although the MPO board almost unanimously voted to approve the proposal - with only one person voting no - all the members disagreed with the funding that TxDOT provided in the plan. The agency said they would pay $61.9 million toward the $750 million project.
“I don’t think that it is reasonable to expect for a region like us to foot the bill and put every other project on hold for approximately 10 years,” Eduardo Calvo, the MPO's executive director, explained.
TxDOT said they will continue to work with MPO and regional partners to find a more equitable way to pay for the funding gap in the next year.
The question of funding was brought up in commissioner’s court. The members debated whether the county should hire a third-party consultant to overview the study that TxDOT had performed on the I-10 corridor in El Paso that is part of the Reimagine I-10 project.
The commissioners voted 3-2 to approve hiring the consultant with County Judge Ricardo Samaniego and Commissioner Carlos Leon voting no.
Commissioner Iliana Holguin made a statement as she voted yes: “I'm going to vote in favor of the item because I don’t believe that having more information is a bad thing."