Texas Transportation Commission, Public Comment, August 31, 2021, 10:00 a.m. CST
Good morning, honorable members of the Texas Transportation Commission. My name is David Stout, and I am El Paso County Commissioner for Precinct 2, which includes Central and Downtown El Paso, through which I-10 runs. I am here to speak in opposition to the funding scheme for Re-imagine I-10 Segment 2, also known as Downtown 10, and the project as proposed.
FIRST, let’s understand Downtown 10 in context. It is part of a system that includes more than $2 billion either spent or proposed in the heart of El Paso. This includes $700 million announced a year ago for work around the Bridge of the Americas port of entry. That feeds into the Spaghetti Bowl, where TXDOT is wrapping up the $100 million I-10 Connect, to feed traffic onto I-10. Only a few years ago, Border West cost about $600 million. Parallel to I-10, it is identified by TXDOT as an alternate route to I-10. TXDOT literally just built a highway next to a highway. That should be more than enough.
“The need and purpose of Downtown 10 is fundamentally flawed.“
The need and purpose of Downtown 10 is fundamentally flawed. Downtown 10 is not proposed to carry future traffic. It is being built to induce traffic as part of a system that is still under development. Project proponents thus far have failed the community, disregarding the noise, pollution, heat island effect, vibrations, and other negative consequences of the highway in the heart of the city. El Paso is 80 percent Hispanic, with a 20 percent poverty rate. All these projects I just described go through neighborhoods that are 90 to 99 percent Hispanic, with poverty rates of close to 70 percent. I’m here to demand better for them. As part of Public Meeting 2, El Paso County asked TXDOT to carry forward reconstruction without widening, and a tunnel concept. You have refused so far. It’s not too late to reconsider. So, to wrap up, I ask that:
ONE: TXDOT must produce an EIS* that evaluates ALL of those projects together as one project. BOTA, I-10 Connect, Downtown 10, Border West … this is one project, and there should be one EIS for all of it.
“We need a bypass for freight traffic. Before Downtown 10, fund the North Expressway.“
TWO: understand this project in an urban neighborhood planning context; begin to heal the damage. Apply these simple principles: no new right of way, and no property taking; no new elevations: we need buffer space between the highway and neighborhoods.We need to depress the highway where possible; we should consider “French drain” and other green infrastructure concepts to reduce flooding, instead of giant basins; open up negotiations with the railroads to benefit the community, not simply make more highway space.
THREE: We need a bypass for freight traffic. Before Downtown 10, fund the Northeast Expressway.
Finally, number FOUR, when a project is identified that benefits the community most affected, my constituents, it must be fully funded. El Paso deserves nothing less than a full, fair share.
*EIS – Environmental Impact Statement.