EL PASO, Texas (CBS4) — El Paso city council approved to have a traffic study done in an Upper Valley neighborhood where new development raised residents’ concerns over traffic congestion and emergency services.
Council unanimously approved Tuesday to direct the El Paso city manager to identify funds that will cover costs related to the study.
Joaquin Rodriguez, program director for the city of El Paso Capital Improvements Department, estimated the Frontera Road traffic study would cost $60,000.
Some of the items the study would look at are the current and future traffic volumes, the impact of potential interventions, emergency response times and access.
Rodriguez said if Gary, Boy Scout and La Hacienda streets were to be closed emergency access gates would be installed that would only be accessible to emergency vehicles.
The estimated costs for the gates were $130,000.
The costs to place a diagonal diverter, the largest closure, at Frontera and La Adelita would range from $74,250 to $264,000.
The proposed change would keep motorists along Frontera in El Paso to stay within Texas and keep traffic coming from New Mexico to stay in New Mexico.
Residents living along Frontera Road spoke up again about their concerns regarding traffic congestion and public safety.
Danny Pivarnick advised the council to close off Frontera Road and Gary Road at the state line.
“Demand that Sunland Park to stop using El Paso roads to fuel their growth and build the needed infrastructure before breaking ground on this development,” Pivarnick said.
Deliris Montanez Berrios, the owner of Equestrian Holistic Retreat, and a former Border Patrol agent, said she’s declined the developer’s offer to buy her property, multiple times.
She also shared her concern about placing gates.
“If you put a gate at that property, It’s not going to be accessible. First responders are going to have a hard time, especially during nights, to open those gates. It happens with Border Patrol all the time,” Berrios said.
She encouraged council members to move forward with a traffic study that would bridge Texas and New Mexico.
“Get both New Mexico and El Paso, to actually build a bridge, that will go on top of Frontera and goes to Doniphan. Let’s be realistic, economic development is going to be perfect for both El Paso and New Mexico,” she said.
Rita Paton told the council the additional 224 homes being planned for the Sun River Estates would complicate traffic along the narrow two-lane street with no sidewalks.
At this time, over 600 homes use Frontera Road as their primary road to get to their homes, according to Patton who cited a previous traffic study.
“It would be a 38 percent increase in an already stressed mile-long arterial collector road,” Paton said.
Tommy Gonzalez, city manager, is expected to return to the council on December 13 and identify funds to execute street safety improvements.
On November 9, El Paso council member Peter Svarzbein sent a letter informing Sunland Park of those plans.
A notarized letter was sent by El Paso Council on November 16th.
“We have offered, I specifically offered, that we continue the dialogue and look at a memorandum of understanding of some sort,” said Juarez-Infante.
He said blocking Frontera road, as Svarzbein suggested two weeks ago, is not an option.
“City legal had looked at the legalities of closing the road and that the city attorney had communicated to the city council that was not an option, the closure of Frontera Road,” said Juarez-Infante.
Representatives from El Paso and Sunland Park say they need to work together.
“We want to be good neighbors, we want to work with them,” said Svarzbein.
“We need to work together, collaboratively,” said Juarez-Infante
Tuesday’s vote approves a plan to identify funding that will cover costs related to the traffic study identified by staff, emergency access gates and streets identified by staff as well as a diagonal diverter on Frontera Road. In addition, the vote also approved Gonzalez and relevant staff, to continue outreach, with an additional notarized letter, in addition with meeting the city of Sunland Park and the developer, in terms of cost sharing as well as looking at design development alternatives for the proposed Sun River Estates development as turn of Frontera Road.
The representative for the Upper Valley, Peter Svarzbein, advised for a letter to be sent to all departments of the city of Sunland Park, including planning and zoning, economic development, city manager, city council members and mayor and any other parties, public or private, identified by staff.
El Paso city officials mentioned another letter to officials with the city of Sunland Park recently noting El Paso is exploring the costs associated to bring alternatives to the Frontera Road area.