Here's what I have learned so far and I will update you as I learn more:
TxDOT is not building an overpass instead of an underpass. They are choosing not to do anything with the entrance.
One observer at yesterday's MPO meeting said that the claim is that TxDOT must spend funds that they have immediately. The design for the entrance is not complete. Aesthetic "doodads" for the I-10/Transmountain exchange are needed - the kind of banal designs TxDOT is using at 375 and other places - Lone Stars and all of that.
Here's what the El Paso District Engineer for TxDOT, Bob Bielek, wrote in an email:
Subject: Franklin State Park Entrance Environmental
Based on our teleconference yesterday, and my review of the situation, I have reached the following conclusions:
1. The purpose and need for the project have been inadequately defined. It appears that the purpose and need to this point has been focused on some unspecified safety concerns from the public or stakeholders. We need to subject the situation to a standard traffic engineering analysis taking into account the volumes on the main lanes, the volume on the entrance road, and the end state from the current project, i.e., no left turns exiting the park with eastbound traffic routed to the frontage road and the “Texas Turnaround” at the Paseo del Norte interchange. We will gather historical information on accident data as well as current and projected traffic to support these analyses.
2. The loss of funding for this fiscal year provides an opportunity to gather information from the stakeholders and the public on what additional factors, or substitute factors, should contribute to the purpose and need for the project. For example, is the real purpose to provide a safe path to connect the two sides of the park for hikers? For wildlife?
3. For the public meeting, we will show the alternatives that have been developed so far and provide several blank aerials that depict the situation that will exist at the end of the current project to allow the stakeholders and public to offer their suggestions or additional alternatives that should be considered.
I appreciate the work that has gone into this so far and the work you have all done in developing and progressing the alternatives. Given the scrutiny that projects are receiving today from other members of the public who, for example, question the wisdom of spending money on providing bike lanes on arterial roadways, we need to ensure that the purpose and need for the project are clearly stated and that we are solving a real, and not imagined, issue.
Bob Bielek, DPA, PE
District Engineer, El Paso District
Texas Department of Transportation
(915) 790-4203 Office
(915) 309-0482 Cell
This sounds like BS-ese for we really want a cheap solution that doesn't include animals, has no connection between the two sides of the State Park for hikers and bikers and we really prefer Lone Stars to people safety. Let people and wildlife die on Transmountain. We just want our cute little Lone Stars.
An alternative road into the Park via Paseo del Norte has already been nixed by TPWD for archaeological reason. But, then again, I'm sure TxDOT prefers cheap over the preservation of rich archaeological sites.
TPWD officials voiced shock by the new stance of TxDOT (obviously TxDOT saw no reason to inform TPWD or get their input first). Fortunately no property has been sold or transferred to TxDOT for the entrance project yet.
A public meeting about the proposed entrance is still scheduled for April 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Canutillo High School. (Map)
I understand that the MPO will discuss this in a meeting prior to TxDOT's obligatory public hearing (probably another one of their window dressings). I'll pass that info on when I get it.
If you have more information, please post here. I'll update you with more later.