Spur Would Connect Paisano to UTEP

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

Spur 1966, a proposed road project that would connect Paisano Drive to Schuster Avenue, will create a freer flow of traffic to The University of Texas at El Paso and enhance pedestrian safety, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

TxDOT representatives and members of a consultant team developing the project answered questions from the public during a May 1 meeting at UTEP’s El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center.Mark Matthews, left, of Houston-based HNTB Co., uses a rendering to explain part of the Spur 1966 project to Marián Gogola, Ph.D., transportation engineer and lecturer at the University of Zilina, Slovakia, during a May 1 public meeting in UTEP’s El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News ServiceMark Matthews, left, of Houston-based HNTB Co., uses a rendering to explain part of the Spur 1966 project to Marián Gogola, Ph.D., transportation engineer and lecturer at the University of Zilina, Slovakia, during a May 1 public meeting in UTEP’s El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center. Photo by Josh Garcia / UTEP News Service

More than 60 people, including UTEP staff, students and faculty; elected officials; and residents from impacted neighborhoods, jockeyed around each other to scrutinize various renderings of the planned project, a proposed timeline and some detailed schematics. They also asked many questions.

TxDot officials said if all goes according to plan, construction could begin on the spur in spring 2013 and be completed in 18 months. The construction zone is undergoing an environmental study that should be completed in late summer. The project should span more than half a mile and has a budget of about $55 million.

The renderings call for a bridge to be built over railroad tracks and Interstate 10 starting at Paisano near the connection with the Yandell Street overpass, which would be torn down as part of the project.

The spur would stretch across the freeway and veer slightly to the left where it connects to Schuster at a raised, 160-foot diameter, two-lane roundabout southwest of the Schuster Parking Garage.

“This will provide better accessibility to UTEP,” said Jesus Heredia, a TxDOT transportation engineer. “Students from Juárez and the Lower Valley will benefit from this new access point, as will residents of all the neighborhoods.”

The average number of vehicles that pass through that area daily is projected to grow to about 14,000 per day in 2035 from around 10,800 in 2015, said Darrin J. Willer, associate vice president of Houston-based HNTB Corp., one of TxDOT’s consultants.

“We’re going to relieve traffic on I-10 and try to balance it on U.S. 85 (Paisano),” he said.

Ruey Long “Kelvin” Cheu, Ph.D., associate professor of civil engineering, whose research involves transportation planning, attended the meeting with several of his students. He praised the project for its efforts to relieve I-10 congestion and for its use of the roundabout, which he said would improve pedestrian safety and reduce traffic delays.

The angle of the spur into the roundabout allows for a sweeping view of the southern end of campus and a nice arrival point, said Greg McNicol, associate vice president of facilities services. He is one of the UTEP representatives who have collaborated on the project.

“I see this as a golden opportunity,” he said as he looked at one of the renderings. “(The view of the bluff) is very inviting and it’ll make a good first impression.”

McNicol added that the spur would benefit residents of neighborhoods around the campus, as well as businesses and the nearby hospitals and medical offices.