Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Remember that FMSP Hike-Bike-Wildlife Corridor and Entrance at Tom Mays?

In March TxDOT presented a report to City Council that included the hiking/biking/animal corridor into the Tom Mays unit of the Franklin Mountains State Park. The corridor is the key connection between the north and south sides of the State Park west of the mountains. It sounded like good news. But where are we now?

On April 7th of this year in an email, TxDOT District Engineer, Bob Bielek, said that he would like to accelerate the project and start sometime in the first quarter of the next fiscal year. (It begins in September 2015.) Acceleration is necessary because of all of the work beginning on I-10 from downtown to Executive. More demand will be put on Loop 375 (the Transmountain Highway.) 

In an email on the same day, Bielek stated that TxDOT workers pick up about 4 dead deer in a year and about 4 dead smaller animals a month. He didn't think that the death toll was too high. His opinion, of course; and the opinions of wildlife experts don't register with him or TxDOT.

Now let's review the record of broken promises and shifting predictions. Judy Ackerman passed some detailed notes about the corridor/connectivity project to me. Her notes begin in January 2013.

January 24, 2013 - the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission considers a proposed transfer of 8 acres of park land to TxDOT for the purpose of a new entrance into the Tom Mays Unit.

November 19, 2013 - at the Border Highway East Public meeting, Bielek stated in a conversation that Dr. Rick Bonart's idea for an animal crossing was a good one , that the project might cost $2 Million, and that TxDOT might start working on it in the Fall of 2014.

December 11, 2013 - plan unveiled to public and is warmly received.

April 10, 2013 - TxDOT holds a public meeting about the corridor/connection/new park entrance. Plans get a positive response.

April 15, 2013 - at a special meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Transportation Policy Board (TPB), Bob Bielek announces that he is committed to the project in 2014.

February 20, 2014 - at an El Paso League of Women Voters meeting, Bielek gives a Fall 2014 date for the beginning of a corridor between the north and south portions of the park that have lost direct access. He gives a date of Fall 2014 for the beginning of such a project.

April 11, 2014 - at a breakfast meeting sponsored by NE El Paso City Council Representative, Carl Robinson, Bielek says that the project will begin in Fall 2014, take 3 months and cost $1 Million.

October 3, 2014 - Bielek says that the project is still in design.

March 17, 2015 - in a presentation to City Council it is announced that the project will cost $3 Million and that the estimated let date is 2016.

May 15, 2015 - again at a Carl Robinson breakfast, Bielek announces that the project will let in 2 to 3 months and that funding will be from Proposition 1 Funds. (Previously it had been from his discretionary account and then "Denial of Access" funds.)

As you can see, dates keep moving up, estimated costs keep changing as well as funding sources. It's June 2015, when will this corridor, which should have begun in Fall of 2014, really begin - if at all?

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