Streetcar project takes Oregon Street

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Streetcar project takes Oregon Street

The El Paso Streetcar Project will bring streetcars from downtown up to the Don Haskins Center.

The El Paso Streetcar Project will bring streetcars from downtown up to the Don Haskins Center.

Special to The Prospector

The El Paso Streetcar Project will bring streetcars from downtown up to the Don Haskins Center.

Special to The Prospector

Special to The Prospector

The El Paso Streetcar Project will bring streetcars from downtown up to the Don Haskins Center.

Grecia Sanchez, Staff Reporter

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For over 30 years, El Paso’s streetcars have been stored at El Paso International Airport. Now they are in the process of being restored as a $97-million dollar grant will bring the streetcar system back to El Paso. The three streetcars will travel on rails, which will require construction at different points of the city, one of them being Oregon Street.

“It is a project intended to place streetcar tracks in service again such as the ones El Paso had back in 1979,” said Ramon L. Telles, the executive director of The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, organization which is in charge of El Paso Streetcar Project. “It goes from downtown all the way up to the Don Haskins Center at UTEP. It passes streets such as Franklin all the way to Stanton, Santa Fe, Glory Road, Mesa, among others. We are covering almost all the area of downtown this summer.”

The main purpose of the construction is to place the tracks that were removed when the streetcars were taken out of circulation in the ‘70s. Although the tracks are the one real visual change on the streets, the city must take care of other details

“The only real change is just placing the tracks, but of course, in order to do that we have to take care of their electrical power,” Telles said. “Because of this, you have to go underground, take care of the utilities, the networks and all the cables and stuff that are underground have to be moved.”

Students, faculty, staff, and visitors at UTEP have been affected by the 4.8-mile project. With graduations going on at the Don Haskins Center and summer school now in session, construction on Oregon Street has had a significant impact on everybody involved.

Martin Avila, a computer science major, lives at Miner Village, located on Oregon Street, and has had to alter his route to work, which has increased his commute time by more than 10 minutes.

“The construction is making my trip to work a lot worse,” Avila said. “The construction makes my trip longer, so if I get a call from work or anything, I have to look at all other ways to Sun Bowl Drive, which is maybe 10 to 15 minutes due to traffic, instead of going just through Oregon, which is five minutes long.”

Understanding the inconvenience construction can cause, CRRMA looked to coordinate with all parties involved. CRRMA worked with UTEP, city representatives and the Texas Department of Transportation to schedule construction.

“Since we are talking about a huge project done this summer 2016, we had to be very careful at finding the times in which we would do it,” Telles said. “This project is definitely affecting everyone, not just the university. We know UTEP is having graduations right now, but it is also affecting hospitals’ schedules, public libraries, convention centers, theaters. Pretty much every building at downtown is having a major change during the placement of the tracks this summer.”

Communicating with the public is also important for CRRMA. Informing the community about closures and construction schedules might help ease the burden of construction.

“We try to update our social media frequently and let the people know where we are going to be, how long we are going to be at their neighborhoods, etc.,” Telles said.

The streetcar project is expected to be completed by late 2018. For more information, visit the CRRMA Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/elpasostreetcar/.

Grecia Sanchez may be reached at [email protected]

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