News Column

Road, Rail, Port Projects in US Part of Border Plan

Jan 11, 2013

Diana Washington Valdez

At least 200 projects are included in the draft border transportation master plan that officials said covers a binational region stretching from Presidio-Ojinaga to Santa Teresa-San Jeronimo.

Included on the U.S. side of the plan are 48 road and interchange projects, three rail projects and 32 ports of entry projects. On the Mexican side of the border, the plan includes 80 road and interchange projects, seven rail projects and 30 ports of entry projects.

The list of projects and their assigned priority rankings were unveiled during a public meeting Thursday at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Officials from the Texas Department of Transportation, the lead coordinating agency for the plan, displayed maps and charts

of the project areas and briefed the audience, comprising mostly agency representatives and others who have worked intensely on the plan since last May.

Jolanda Prozzi, an expert with the Center for Transportation Research at the University of Texas in Austin, said the draft plan is the culmination of many organizations and agencies that have a stake in transportation matters as well as public input gleaned at previous meetings.

"Border master plans were part of the binational agendas of President Barack Obama and (former) Mexican President Felipe Calderon," Prozzi said, "and are intended to facilitate legitimate trade and travel."

The projects include new ports of entry, such as the proposed border crossing at Sunland

Park, and adding lanes to heavily traveled streets like Dyer in Northeast El Paso. Some projects have funding, while others do not, and some are short term, while others are viewed as needed in the future.

Javier Ortiz, a border transportation consultant who attended the meeting, said some of the projects listed for Mexico do not correspond in ranking or timelines with the U.S. list.

"For example, on the list of U.S. projects, the border crossing for Sunland Park has an "unknown"

timeline and was not assigned a priority ranking," Ortiz said. "But, on the Mexico projects list, the $14.2 million border crossing is ranked at the top of the ports of entry projects, and has a short- to medium-term start time. This is a discrepancy that needs to be settled before the plan is finalized."

Prozzi said that 18 voting members and 26 nonvoting members on the plan's Binational Advisory Committee came up with the ranking system and that the voting members endorsed the final rankings. The voting members will have about two weeks to decide on the plan's final version. A list of those who helped to assign priority rankings for the projects was not available Thursday.

The plan can be used by communities to develop transportation projects, seek funding from available sources, or develop sources using tolls and fees. The plan will also serve to increase coordination among agencies and across city, county, state, federal and international jurisdictions.

"To remain a viable planning tool, these plans reflect each region's needs, interests and priorities," TxDOT said in a statement about the El Paso/Santa Teresa-Chihuahua Border Master Plan. "The plans are to be updated and amended periodically to keep the contents and inventory current, and to continue to represent the region's vision and goals."

Other border regions in Texas have or will have their own transportation master plans.

"This meeting was to let the public know about the region's priorities that have emerged up to now in the master plan process, and to provide comments or make suggestions before the plan is final," TxDOT spokeswoman Blanca Del Valle said Thursday

The region's combined projects would cost billions of dollars if they could be all be funded today. Practically, since that will not happen, regional leaders have to decide which ones are needed the most and can be paid for from public or private sources or a combination of both.

Members of the study team that worked on the plan included representatives from the Center for Transportation, the Texas Transportation Institute and UTEP.

Prozzi said the plan seeks to address topics such as traffic congestion, improved access to border crossings, improved mobility for vehicles and pedestrians, and transportation impacts on communities.

Eduardo Hagert, TxDOT's project manager for the border master plan, said the region's plan incorporates the efforts of the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. State Department, as well as Mexico's Foreign Ministry and Mexico's Secretary of Communications and Transportation.

While some of the Mexican transportation projects are controlled by city and state governments, others require the federal government's approval and money.

For example, officials in the state of Chihuahua won't know when Mexico will begin work on the Mexican side of the Tornillo-Guadalupe International Bridge until Mexico's new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, sets his priorities and assigns a team to work on the bridge project. Work on the U.S. side of the bridge continues.

The public may continue to provide comments and views on the plan at, or by email at border-master-plan@austin.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at; 546-6140.

The Texas Department of Transportation provided the names of voting and non-voting members who helped to share the draft transportation border master plan. This is the list of the people who helped to develop the priority ranking system for transportation projects in the region:

U.S. voting members Department of State, Rachel Poynter Federal Highway Administration, Sylvia Grijalva Texas Department of Transportation, El Paso District 24 El Paso County, County Judge Veronica Escobar City of El Paso, Mayor John Cook General Services Administration, Jim King Customs & Border Protection, Mikhail A. Pavlov New Mexico Department of Transportation, Homer Bernal El Paso state delegation, Senator Jose R. Rodriguez International Boundary & Water Commission (U.S.), Gabriel Duran

U.S. non-voting members Trucking industry, Miguel Perez & Hector Mendoza Maquiladora industry, Kathy Neal Customs brokers, Rosie Lara Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Nathan Asplund Union Pacific Railroad, Ivan Jaime New Mexico Border Authority, Marco Herrera U.S. Consulate, Peter Sloan Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, Jack Chapman Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cindy Ramos-Davidson Dona Ana County, Commissioner Dolores Saldana-Caviness Congress, former U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes City of El Paso public member, Patrick Terrence Abeln County of El Paso public member, Stephanie Caviness Presidio County, Judge Paul Hunt

Mexico voting members Foreign Ministry, Sean Carlos Cazares Ahearne Federal Communications & Transportation, Juan Jose Erazo Garcia Cano State of Chihuahua Communications & Public Works, Javier Alfonso Garfio Pacheco City of Juarez, Vicente Lopez Urueta INDAABIN (Mexican federal property administration), Luis Enrique Mendez Ramirez Federal Customs, Carlos Morales Tayavas INM (National Migration Institute), Ana Licenko Saval Chihuahua Industry Promotion: Sergio Jurado Medina

Mexico non-voting members Trucking industry, Manuel Sotelo Maquiladora industry, Armendariz & Guillermo Gutierrez Customs brokers, oscar Chavez Arvizo Ferromex Railroad, Manuel Juarez Federal Highway & Bridges, Hector Carrasco Mexican Consulate, Consul Roberto Rodriguez Hernandez IMIP (Juarez City Planning & Research Institute), Alberto Nicolas Lopez Promofront (Zaragoza bridge concessionaire), Antonio Casillas & Virginia Dorantes CILA (Mexico side of IBWC), Armando Reyes

Source: (c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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