Opinion Editorial: The Hotel California Highway

By J.M.

In August 2019, I read an article that the Border West Expressway (BWE), which runs along the Rio Grande, was recognized as one of the best designed and structured highways. Obviously, they did not ask the people who actually use it like the drivers who have had to figure out how to drive along the highway.

If I had been asked for my opinion, I would have told them that this new highway should have been named “The Hotel California Highway,” because like the Eagles song lyrics written by Glenn Lewis Frey, Don Felder, and Donald Hugh Henley, of the song with the same name go: “You can check out any time you like…but you can never leave.” You can only enter the highway at certain points on Loop 375, and at UTEP, but not around downtown or anywhere in Central El Paso. A December 18, 2019 Press Release published in the El Paso Herald Post announced that Campbell Street and Oregon Street would no longer direct drivers to the BWE westbound lanes. It added that “Drivers leaving downtown heading west may access the Border West Expressway via the Coles/Paisano Interchange, or by taking Paisano to Spur 1966.”

In my opinion, the new segment of the Loop 375 blatantly ignores and discriminates against the people from downtown El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Individuals visiting the city, as well as residents from the downtown area and the two International bridges do not have access to the highway. Hundreds if not thousands of drivers cross back and forth daily to and from Mexico through the International bridges but they cannot use The Hotel California Highway.

Mexican visitors and consumers do not have access to this highway, simply because there is no entrance or exit from the central area. They either have to travel to UTEP or the Coles/Paisano Interchange to access or exit The Hotel California Highway. There are points where the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) could have constructed better entrances and exits (especially in the downtown area), but they didn’t. I know this highway was meant as a toll road, but even as such, it would have been nice to have access to downtown El Paso and the International bridges. I have to wonder if this was an intentional oversight?

It doesn’t make sense that The Hotel California Highway would not take Mexican shoppers into consideration because throughout the last decades they have paid millions of dollars in taxes on their purchases which amount multi-millions of dollars in local and regional commerce but somehow no one thought about their needs. It is not just about Mexicans, but also about residents who drive from the West Side to the East Side and back and there are not any convenient roads on and off the highway. We can drive by the downtown area, but we cannot get off there. I don’t see how The Hotel California Highway is a solution to alleviate heavy traffic congestion from Interstate 10?

A few weeks ago East side bound traffic on Loop 375 at the Coles’ exit was closed. Hundreds of drivers coming from West El Paso were forced to divert to Montana Street and if they were driving to Cd. Juarez or to Downtown El Paso, it was a disaster. The Hotel California Highway is not convenient for anyone driving to Cd. Juarez or downtown. A local driver would be able to maneuver and eventually access the bridge or downtown, but a driver unfamiliar with the highway would be lost in this situation. Is this the experience we want to promote in our city? I’m surprised the Downtown Management District doesn’t feel this is a problem?

Please solve the obvious issues with The Hotel California Highway and at least build a direct downtown entrance and an exit which are badly needed.

J.M. is a local businessman and educator in El Paso, Texas who is a fan of the Eagles, but not of the Hotel California Highway.