I-10 project clashes with Sunset Heights neighborhood

According+to+TxDOT+it+estimates+303%2C000+cars+will+be+on+the+road+each+day+by+2042+at+an+average+travel+speed+of+28+miles+per+hour.+

Alberto Silva Fernandez

According to TxDOT it estimates 303,000 cars will be on the road each day by 2042 at an average travel speed of 28 miles per hour.

Levi Carlos, Staff Reporter

The Texas Department of Transportation’s (TxDOT) Downtown 10 projects may significantly impact parts of the historic Sunset Heights neighborhood. Community members of Sunset Heights dispute the need for the project and oppose the expansion of I-10.  

“The thing that they focus on the most is projected future traffic, but we dispute at how they arrived at those projections,” said Sito Negron, president of the Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association (SHNIA). 

Fact sheets provided by TxDOT explain the need for expansion is due to El Paso’s growth and the need to improve outdated infrastructure. TxDOT estimates 303,000 cars will be on the road each day by 2042 at an average travel speed of 28 miles per hour.  

This data provided by TxDOT was produced from traffic cams as well as data from independent sources and studies done though TxDOT. These independent sources include the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization.  

“The Downtown 10 traffic analysis is in the process actually to get out there and do some traffic cams and is going to take about six months to finalize that study for the current project,” said Hugo Hernandez, project manager of the Downtown 10 project. 

The information that TxDOT provided from the I-10 corridor study “Reimagine I-10″ is what initiated the Downtown 10 project. 

“The Reimagine I-10 was a 55-mile study of I-10 from the Texas/New Mexico state line to Tornillo,” said Lauren Macias-Cervantes, information specialist with TxDOT. “Downtown 10… is the first project that resulted from that study.” 

Community members of Sunset Heights feel that the project is expensive, destructive and inconvenient.  

“It is going to take years to construct it if they build it the way they say they are talking about building it and shut the highway down at different times for a result that doesn’t necessarily improve traffic and definitely doesn’t benefit the neighborhood in and around downtown,” said Negron.  

TxDOT conducted similar studies when proposing the construction of Loop 375 in the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) area of I-10.  

In 2004, TxDOT conducted the Loop 375 César Chávez Highway (Border Highway West) Extension Interstate Highway 10 and Schuster Avenue Intersection Improvements Feasibility Study for that purpose.  

It looked at the interchange from I-10 to Loop 375 for the purpose of alleviating congestion for the UTEP area as well as for the medical district and the surrounding neighborhoods.  

The study found “interim improvements” that would allow for connection to the Border Highway. The traffic study for Reimagine I-10 does factor in Loop 375 even though it is not represented in the video for future traffic projections. 

“It will provide some relief, but at the end of the day, by 2045 the I-10 within the Downtown 10 limits are still going to give us a lot of congestion and are going to fail our level of service,” said Hernandez. 

Residents of Sunset Heights agree that there is a need to fix outdated infrastructure, but they do not think that TxDOT has proven the need for expansion. 

“The highway project itself had different components, so one component is widening the highway itself adding a lane in each direction,” Negron said. “Another component is adding frontage roads like suburban frontage roads that you see next to the mall, and another component is reconstruction of the road surface itself. The reconstruction part of that we are not necessarily opposed to.”  

Community members of Sunset Heights are trying to stop this project in different ways. “We’re doing what their process allows us to do, which is making comments whenever there’s an opportunity to do so and letting our elected officials and whoever else we can know what our concerns are,” said Negron.  

TxDOT is reaching out to the community to listen to concerns of this project in the summer of 2022 and is planning to have an alternative to present to the public at that time. 

Learn more at https://www.reimaginei10.com/downtown10.html. You can find out more about the Sunset Heights Neighborhood Improvement Association from their Facebook page.  

Levi Carlos is a staff reporter and may be reached at [email protected].