The city of El Paso's plans to build a rapid-transit corridor along Dyer Street are about to take the next step forward.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recommended on Tuesday that $15.2 million be included in the federal fiscal year 2013 budget for the Dyer Corridor Rapid Transit System project.
"It basically means we are one step closer to start designing this corridor," said Sun Metro spokeswoman Laura Cruz-Acosta.
The 12-mile transit corridor would start at Sun Metro's Downtown transfer station and end at a new Northeast terminal, which will be built at the demolished Northpark Mall, replacing a small bus station already there. It would also serve the Five Points terminal and have a stop near the Cassidy Gate at Fort Bliss.
This corridor will use buses but with a technological edge. It will be like "light rail on rubber tires," Cruz-Acosta said.
"It would be more efficient" bus service, she said.
The system will use technology that could lengthen a green light or shorten a red light to allow for more efficient travel for the buses, Cruz-Acosta said. The public will also prepay, which will speed up the process. Bus stops will be about a mile apart instead of every block, she said.
The total cost for the project will be about $35.25 million. Sun Metro is hoping to get an additional $5.2 million from the Federal Transit Administration.
The rest would come from a combination of city and state funding, Cruz-Acosta said.
The plan is for the Dyer corridor to be done by fall 2014.
The Dyer project is the third rapid-transit corridor that the city is developing. Others, along Mesa and Alameda, are planned to be ready by, respectively, the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.
A fourth is planned for Montana and could open by the fall of 2015.
Northeast city Rep. Carl L. Robinson called the proposed federal funding "great news" for Northeast El Paso and the city in general.
One of the city government's top goals is to improve its public transportation system, reduce dependence on cars and improve air quality by cutting emissions, Robinson said.
Robinson also said that these rapid-transit corridors can spur economic development.
The city, for instance, is hoping that the demolished Northpark Mall can be turned into a transit-friendly community that includes a mix of housing, retail, open space and a new Northeast bus terminal.
"This could be a jewel that spurs economic development," Robinson said.
Earlier this year, Sun Metro got the go-ahead from the Federal Transit Administration to start looking more closely at planning, engineering and other details for the Dyer project.
David Burge may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6126.
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