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.
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