El Pasoans join a Texas coalition against destructive, unneeded, polluting highway projects
Members of a new coalition in El Paso, Freeways for the People, and community leaders will gather to explain their opposition to the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) project known as Downtown 10, and to TXDOT tactics being used here and across the state to ram through urban highway widening projects. Similar news conferences will take place in Austin and Houston, highlighting the call for TXDOT to work with communities to develop better options.
In El Paso, TXDOT is developing a freeway-widening and frontage roads project on a six-mile stretch from Copia to Executive Center. The city already has vehicular-traffic air and noise pollution problems that threaten people’s health— especially children. Studies in El Paso suggest that children’s academic achievement is lowered by the dirty air. A bigger I-10 will simply induce more traffic and more pollution.
Much of this TXDOT project will hurt our neighborhoods in other ways. But TXDOT has so far refused to consider true alternatives to the concept of widening and frontage roads. Further, it’s proposing to partially fund the project, with our community paying for much of it – but only if El Paso accepts the project “as is.” Freeways for the People says No! to this funding scheme. Public comment for this ends Monday, and now is the time to speak up!
We can resist. Other cities are. In Houston, the federal Highway Administration recently ordered TXDOT to stop activities to widen I-45 pending a review. The governments of Houston and Harris County, which encompasses Houston, both oppose the widening, and have proposed community-driven alternatives. TXDOT has responded with a survey addressed to the public. Answers are due by Monday. The survey has a ‘say yes or else’ quality to it: respondents can only vote “yes,” that they want what TXDOT wants, or “no,” in which case no other alternatives for better transportation are suggested. This is not a 21st-century community conversation. TXDOT should work with the Houston community, not force binary choices based on false premises.
In El Paso, TXDOT started with the worst project proposal for neighborhoods, local commuters, environment, and economy. But individuals and groups now part of Freeways for the People engaged with the community evaluation process, and as a result the project is now “less worse” than when it started. For example, it no longer contemplates destroying over 100 properties north of I-10 and east of Downtown. But it still does propose to destroy other property. And it induces traffic – especially heavy trucks – onto I-10. Overall, it worsens the conditions and quality of life for all neighborhoods adjacent to the highway. We need to focus on solutions that work for the entire community, and get that heavy traffic out of the heart of the City.
The public may submit public comment to TXDOT by 3 pm El Paso time on Monday (Aug. 9, 2021), in two ways:●
Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2022UTP, fill out the comment field, and click no on both questions.
● Send an email to UTP-PublicComments@txdot.gov
We can do so much more for our community than accepting “less worse.” We can demand no-holds-barred better. Freeways for the People is here for better.
● What: News Conference with members of Freeways for the People and community leaders about the Downtown 10 freeway widening and frontage road project
● When: 10 a.m. Saturday (Aug. 7, 2021)
● Where: Karr Park in Sunset Heights