Opinion Editorial: “Uptown” and the Re-imagine I-10 Project at the City Plan Commission Meeting

El Paso City Manager Tomás González has instructed his staff to refer and rebrand everything north of downtown El Paso as “Uptown.”  Is González referring to “Uptown,” a neighborhood in Dallas, Texas, or to the new name for everything north of downtown El Paso?  Before anyone states that these statements are conspiracy theories or marketing ploys and that everything north of the downtown is not being referred to as a strange new name, please know that city planning staffers have been assigned to research and work on these projects.

No one is really sure what Hugo Hernández, Project Manager, will be speaking about in his presentation on the TxDOT Re-imagine I-10 Project before the August 20th City Plan Commission meeting, because there are not any supporting documents attached to the agenda item. Usually, action items presented before the CPC have attached materials on agenda items, just as they are commonly provided in El Paso City Council Meetings, but in this case, there are no documents attached, in spite of TxDOT having had recent public input meetings.  If Hernández and highway widening boosters want Commissioners to comment or vote on any action, where are the public documents?  Where is the public transparency?

El Paso, Texas, Pre-Interstate 10.

TxDOT and the project’s boosters claim that biggest issue for the Re-imagine I-10 plan is needing to expand the highway; and they claim that I-10 at downtown is a choke point and therefore MUST be widened, or traffic will slow down at a snail’s pace during rush hours. Unfortunately, they are basing their scenarios based on predictive travel demand models, and the assumption is that basically 90% of those vehicles will have a single occupant. So, to meet the demand predicted, TxDOT will have no recourse but to widen the freeway and perhaps add a deck park too!  Another city staffer has been assigned to deck park in case you think it’s just a figment of the imagination! The problem with the travel demand models is that if we stop counting vehicles, and start counting people, the math changes! Suddenly, transit becomes a better option for moving people but no one is recommending that idea and there aren’t any staffers assigned to research that issue. 

Transportation, as Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris stated on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, at the Democratic National Convention, “is part of structural racism.”

The Re-imagine I-10 Project seeks to convince us that El Paso’s population is growing so much that we need to widen I-10 from Executive Center to Copia, but in reality, they want commuters and freight traffic to zoom through downtown at 60 miles per hour and not hear of the roar of the crowd in the soccer game that will be playing above the trench.

Texas State Highway Commissioners pose for the photo-op in 1967, published in El Paso Today, a Publication of the El Paso Chamber of Commerce. Today’s El Paso Chamber of Commerce is also behind the Re-imagine I-10 Project.

Highway building needs transparency.  Today, as in the late 1960s, entire neighborhoods were affected and citizens had very little recourse or input even though today’s agencies brag that they offer countless community input sessions, yet their processes are far from being transparent.  Highway building is still a behind-the-scenes endeavor.  Transportation, as Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris stated on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at the Democratic National Convention, “is part of structural racism.”

Consultant Brian Swindle and TxDOT boasts that they value public input and engagement but the decision to go forward has basically been decided because it is largely a behind the scenes process.

Highway projects are also class-based endeavors. If your community is affluent, you may get better treatment, but not always. If your community is working class or lower middle-class, city officials may not expect you or your neighbors to complain, but that is starting to change in this period of the Black Lives Matter Movement. El Paso neighborhoods South of I-10, have historically shared the brunt of environmental and transportation racism. In this election year, persons running for office need to be challenged on those issues. If politicians are taking your community for granted, reach out in your area and start a neighborhood association.

If you want to call in and offer your comments for or against the Re-imagine I-10 Project at the CPC Meeting, you need to contact them before 1:30 p.m. at: 1-915-213-4096. At the prompt please enter the Conference ID: 233 639 409#

Don’t forgot to press STAR SIX to mute or STAR SIX to unmute.  You will be given five minutes to speak and ask city staff not to talk over you if you cannot understand the technical lingo.

URL: http://legacy.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/_documents/City%20Plan%20Commission/08-20-20/agenda.htm?1597886206959

The item is #5 on the CPC Regular Agenda under Part III and it states:

5. Discussion and action on a presentation for the TxDOT Reimagine I-10 project. Presenter: Hugo Hernández (TxDOT)

For further information on the Re-imagine I-10 Project see: http://www.reimaginei10.com/ or http://www.reimaginei10.com/downtown10.html

Notice is hereby given that the City Plan Commission of the City of El Paso will be conducted on August 20, 2020 at 1:30 PM. Members of the public may view the meeting via the following means:

Via the City’s website: http://www.elpasotexas.gov/videos

Via television on City15, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/cityofelpasotx/videos