El Paso Times Editorial Board
Posted: 04/27/2011 12:00:00 AM MDT
Perhaps the future of Texas road building is what’s the bottom line for today’s celebration. For the record, dignitaries will celebrate the completion of Spur 601 in Northeast, El Paso’s first “pass-through finance agreement.”
The $365 million project connects U.S. Highway 54 with Loop 375. Now there’s easier access to El Paso International Airport, Fort Bliss and Biggs Army Airfield.
With “pass-through finance,” the Texas Department of Transportation will pay semiannual compensation to general contractor J.D. Abrams. This process means TxDOT does not need up-front financing.
The conduit between the two was the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority. It served as the bond issuer on behalf of J.D. Abrams.
If “pass-through finance” projects are generally accepted in Texas, then the cash-strapped TxDOT can continue to be involved in new road construction. It’s reported that TxDOT will soon have only enough money available to maintain existing roads.
Unless the state adjusts TxDOT’s ability to build new roads, this type of creative financing will be the future.
Construction of Spur 601 (Liberty Expressway) began in 2007 and the road has been open since January. It is a 7.4-mile connection between U.S. 54 on the west and Loop 375 on the east, beginning at Fred Wilson (between Fort Bliss and the airport). There is now a new intersection at U.S. 54 in all four directions.
The need for the project came in 2005 when Fort Bliss learned it would grow by thousands of troops due to Base Closure and Realignment. The post is also undergoing billions of dollars in construction. It definitely needed this inner-loop project to handle all the new traffic.
It’s also a boon to Northeast and East El Paso. The spur connects the East Side, via Loop 375, to U.S. 54 (Northeast). It’s an alternative to having to take Interstate 10 on the busy East Side.
This was a project that was needed, not only for the the military’s purposes, but for an expanding El Paso.
And finding creative ways to finance such needed projects is, perhaps, Texas’ future.