Contractors work to complete a portion of Spur 601, a seven-mile stretch of highway that is being built to ease traffic flow in and out of East Fort Bliss. Courtesy photo.
Fort Bliss Public Affairs
The Spur 601 project is on schedule and set to ease traffic in and out of East Fort Bliss by 2011, said the vice president of project development for J.D. Abrams.
Spur 601 is a seven-mile stretch of highway from the west end of U.S. Highway 54, traveling along Fred Wilson and going across the desert for five miles between Airport Road and Loop 375. Ideally, the road will provide a quicker route from the east, northeast and downtown to Fort Bliss, and will also give multiple options for accessing East Fort Bliss from outside the post, said Bill Burnett, who also serves as project development vice president for Spur 601.
The contract for the project was signed in August 2007. J.D. Abrams, LP is designing and building the road, and according to Burnett, "it's the only project like it in the United States, in that it is being financed by Abrams and after the road is completed and opened, Texas Department of Transportation will pay the company." Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority has also been instrumental in the financing.
With a projected completion date of January 2011, the project is broken into five segments. Segment A-1, which extended Global Reach from George Perry to Spur 601 and relocated Walter Jones Drive, was opened Aug. 30. This segment of the project connected the extension of Global Reach to the new Global Reach access control point on East Fort Bliss.
Currently, Abrams is doing the right-of-way acquisition work. They are moving 14 utility companies, three of which belong to Fort Bliss: the Fort Bliss water service, Rio Grande Electric and the Directorate of Information Manage-ment. Burnett said there are more than 120,000 linear feet of utilities to move out of the way of the new road.
The second milestone is segment A-2, due to open May 29. This phase of the project includes two and a half miles from the Loop 375 interchange on the east side to the Global Reach overpass. This will allow people to access East Fort Bliss from the east or northeast area of El Paso using the Global Reach access control point. The Constitution Avenue access control point should be opening around Memorial Day next year.
"It will save time because it will be freeway travel as opposed to the traffic-light travel,"said Burnett. "Before, there was only one way into East Fort Bliss; now it will provide three access gates."
Segment A-3, from Global Reach to Airport Road, has two opening dates. The eastbound section is due to open in November 2009 and the westbound in January 2011.
"The heaviest construction is on the west end of US 54," said Burnett. "Right now if you are traveling from the northeast or downtown to get on Fred Wilson to go to Bliss, you have to get off on the service road and go through the lights. You will soon have freeway-to-freeway direct connectors, cleaning up the Fred Wilson intersection."
Burnett said they are happy with the progress.
"The utilities have taken a little bit longer than we had hoped, but we are in the process of moving the lines underground. The trenches have been dug and the pipes are in the ground. Next week we will be pulling the wires through."
The project, everyone agrees, is about what's best for El Paso, and "What's best for El Paso is any success that Fort Bliss has," said Burnett.