El Paso Multi-Purpose Arena Project

El Paso has identified a proposed location for the El Paso Multi-Purpose Arena project, one of three Signature Projects approved as part of the 2012 Quality of Life Bond Program. On October 18, 2016, the City of El Paso approved the Arena Land Acquisition Process. Voters approved a $180 million budget for the entire project.

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The footprint of the proposed arena is located on, “one and a half blocks from South Santa Fe Street south to Paisano, west to the alleyway before Leon Street, up the alleyway to West Overland Avenue and east to South Santa Fe Street.”

The footprint area includes a total of 22 properties, including five that are vacant or surface lots, seven that are commercial, seven that are residential, and two that are city owned.

Some preservationists have protested the location of the arena. For example, the Historical Landmark Commission, in a 6-0 vote with three abstentions taking place on November 7, 2016, recommended that the City Council reconsider the downtown arena project.  Though no buildings in the designated area are listed on any historical register, County Commissioner David Stout stated that some surveys have recommended reclassifying certain properties. Two other sites considered for the arena were behind City Hall and an area near San Jacinto Plaza.

A community meeting was held on Nov 14, 2016 at the vacant Fire Station, located at 331 S. Santa Fe Street. Additional meetings will be scheduled throughout the process in order to keep the public informed regarding the progress on the arena project and land acquisition.

City attorney Sylvia Firth stated at a press conference in October that it should take the city about a year to acquire the property in the designated area.

TxDOT Loop 360 Construction – Austin

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently released a new report recommending the gradual elimination of the 20 traffic signals on Loop 360 in Austin, Texas. TxDOT reported that Loop 360 has not substantially improved since 1982 despite the up to 80,000 vehicles that traverse the highway each day, leading to average travel times between 44 and 68 minutes when driving the 14.5 miles between South MoPac and U.S. 183.

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Two previous proposals to address the congestion failed due to lack of public support. In order to more directly engage the public, TxDOT initiated a grassroots movement leading to 11 section working group meetings, 43 stakeholder meetings, 3,6000 survey responses, and 2,085 comments.

The report culminating from that effort states that, “the greatest increase in mobility, safety, and access comes from removing traffic signals from the mainlanes.” The report consequently promotes the construction of overpasses and underpasses at all the key intersections and a flyover bridge at South MoPac (Loop 1) and U.S. 183. The report also calls for the addition of a lane on each side of the median. The estimated cost of this project would be $337 million.

In order to limit the amount of construction at any one time and minimize congestion caused by construction, TxDOT plans to use an incremental approach to construction. In the next one to four years, the TxDOT report proposes spending an estimated $20 million to add turn lanes in order to improve signal timing and make other relatively inexpensive changes.

Following review and approval of its report, TxDOT plans to continue conceptual planning and then determine the location and extent of proposed improvements. The project will require an implementation plan as well as environmental and design studies before TxDOT can move forward with construction plans and right-of-way and utility relocations.

The report can be found at:

https://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/aus/sl_360/final-report.pdf

Contact Luke Ellis at Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge at lellis@jmehlaw.com or (512) 215-4078 if you have any questions or would like to receive periodic updates on this project.