Private firm gets OK to begin Inner Loop Project

By Erica Molina Johnson / El Paso Times

Article Launched: 08/31/2007 12:00:00 AM MDT

Construction on a $367 million freeway project in the Northeast will start this fall to connect Loop 375 to U.S. 54 after a financing agreement for the road was signed Thursday.
The seven-mile Spur 601 project is the state’s first private-sector pass-through financing agreement.

J.D. Abrams will finance, design and build the Inner Loop with an investment of about $312 million. The money will be reimbursed by the state over time based on the number of people who use the highway.

“This will allow us to build this project years faster than we could through the state acting on its own,” said Randall Dillard, spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation.

The agreement was signed Thursday by J.D. Abrams President Jon Abrams and Michael Behrens, Transportation Department executive director.

“We’re very proud to be part of this and we’re looking forward to getting to the next step, and that’s turning some dirt and building some bridges,” Abrams said.

The construction will connect areas in that region where J.D. Abrams has been developing projects.

“It’s going to change the face of Northeast El Paso,” he said. “It’s very exciting.”

The new freeway will go over part of Fred Wilson Avenue to Airport Road and along Walter Jones Boulevard to Loop 375. The construction will also include a new entrance to Fort Bliss.

“It’s absolutely critical,” Transportation Department district engineer Chuck Berry said. “Fort Bliss informed us it was absolutely necessary for
their expansion.”

The highway is expected to decrease traffic congestion as military members and Northeast residents bypass traffic signals on the existing roads.

The project, now in its design phase, is expected to take about three years to complete.

Mayor John Cook said he will suggest that the City Council name the new Inner Loop, which will connect the Patriot Freeway with the Purple Heart Memorial Freeway, the Wounded Warrior Freeway.

Erica Molina Johnson may be reached at;546-6132.