The Loop 375 Border Highway West extension got a new name as state, city and county officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the $500 million project Wednesday.
The new highway is now called the Border West Expressway and is the final piece of Loop 375 that will go around the city from West to East El Paso and connect to the Northeast by U.S. Highway 54.
"This is a great day for El Paso. This is the final piece of the Loop (375) around El Paso," said Ted Houghton, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission. "This has been a long time coming."
The expressway will stretch 7.4 miles from the existing César Chávez Border Highway at U.S. Highway 54 near Downtown to Racetrack Drive near Doniphan Drive in West El Paso, said Bob Bielek, the Texas Department of Transportation's El Paso district engineer.
Bielek said the highway will help relieve traffic congestion on El Paso's main highway — Interstate 10.
"If we have an incident or accident, there is no frontage roads from Mesa to Copia, which means it is very difficult to handle an incident or anytime we have to do maintenance," Bielek said. "Loop 375, whether it is the Border Highway or expressway along the north side and over Trans Mountain, is critically important to give traffic an alternative to I-10. Once this project is finished, we are going to have to go out there and reconstruct much of I-10 and if this project wasn't in place it would be almost impossible to move through El Paso."
Construction will begin in spring and is expected to be completed in fall 2017, Bielek said.
The highway will have four lanes on each side with two toll lanes in each direction. The toll lanes will be about 5.6 miles long going from Racetrack Drive to Loop 375 near Santa Fe Street, Bielek said.
El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser and County Judge Veronica Escobar said that the new highway will play a major factor in helping the El Paso economy grow.
"You can see where the highways are starting to connect and see the ease of mobility, and that is really important when you talk about companies that are investing millions of dollars and hire thousands of employees in our community and bring quality jobs," Leeser said. "It is really important that they see the community of El Paso is investing in itself, and I can tell by the groundbreaking today that this is another way to show El Paso is and will continue to invest in itself."
Escobar said that having a strong transportation system is important for El Paso to compete with other cities for business.
"A good transportation infrastructure system is key to being a competitive community," Escobar said. "So when the mayor talks about all the work he is doing to lure companies and trying to get people to set up shop in El Paso, that (transportation) is critical and the community has to be prepared for that success. One way we can be prepared is by having a modern transportation infrastructure system."
For more information, visit TxDOT.gov or border westexpressway.com.