TX: MPO Approves $97M for El Paso Streetcar Project

Aug. 02--The Transportation Policy Board of El Paso's Metropolitan Planning Organization on Friday approved state funding to resume the El Paso Streetcar Project but not without contention.

State Rep. Joe Pickett and Vinton Mayor Madeleine Praino voted against the motion to approve $97 million in state funds for a 4.8 mile trolley service in Downtown El Paso.

During the board meeting Friday, Pickett said that the streetcar project was not a "top priority" for the city, calling the streetcar project and the funds to build it a "romance." He also voiced concerns over how the process to fund the streetcars came about. Pickett said that he would be in favor of the project if it were funded through federal dollars.

"There is something that is wrong and this should not have been done in the dark of night," Pickett added.

South-West City Rep. Cortney Niland, whose district includes Downtown, countered Pickett's argument saying that the project would benefit El Paso's economy.

"I take great offense," Niland said about Pickett's comments. "These are not romance dollars."

Last month, the El Paso City Council approved an agreement that would allow the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority (CRRMA) to take over the development of the streetcar system. City Council also agreed to give the mobility authority a portion of the remaining project budget of $124,659.

Raymond L. Telles, executive director for the CRRMA, said that now that the city has assigned the project and the MPO has approved $97 million in funding, the mobility board can move forward with other parts of the project.

The mobility board will meet Aug. 13 to vote on approving the assignment of the project, amend the contract with URS -- the design team that planned the streetcar system -- and also sign a funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation, Telles said.

The streetcars, which have not run for four decades, would run north from Stanton Street in Downtown to the University of Texas at El Paso. The route would loop the university campus and run back south on Oregon Street. The proposed project would have 27 stops along the way.

Interim City Engineer Irene Ramirez told the El Paso Times last month that construction for the trolley would begin in a year and could take up to three-and-a-half years to complete.

Luis Carlos Lopez may be reached at 546-6381.

Copyright 2014 - El Paso Times, Texas

Loading