Public meetings next week on US 67 master plan

By ROBERT HALPERN

FAR WEST TEXAS - Four public meetings are scheduled next week to gather feedback on the future of US 67, according to a Texas Department of Transportation news release. The TxDOT El Paso District is developing a Corridor Plan for 142 miles of the corridor from the Presidio/Ojinaga Port of Entry on the U.S./Mexico border to Interstate 10 west of Fort Stockton. The plan will identify current and future needs along US 67, and provide a set of recommended projects for short-, medium-, and long-term implementation. Safety is a key consideration. Here’s the meeting schedule: * 5-7pm Monday, May 14, the Alpine Civic Center. * 5-7pm Tuesday, May 15, Fort Stockton, large community hall, James Rooney Memorial Park. * 5-7pm Wednesday, May 16, Marfa Visitor Center / historic USO building. * 5-7pm, Thursday, May 17, Presidio Activity Center.US 67 provides access to the towns of Marfa, Alpine, Presidio and surrounding communities, as well as Big Bend National Park, Sul Ross State University, the Marfa Lights, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Fort Leaton State Park, and Fort Davis attractions. It serves multiple communities with diverse needs and priorities. This rural area has experienced significant growth in recent years, and TxDOT is undertaking a corridor study to help determine the current and future transportation needs to best serve the communities along US 67. TxDOT wants to be proactive in planning for a safe and efficient corridor. “The US 67 Corridor has experienced increasing traffic driven by many factors, including population growth, additional tourism and special events, international commerce and Permian Basin oilfield development,” said TxDOT El Paso District Engineer Bob Bielek. “This has led to a number of safety and transportation issues. For example, from 2010 to 2016, there were more than 600 crashes along the corridor, including 100 injury crashes and 11 fatal accidents.” For Presidio and Brewster county residents and citizens of Presidio, Marfa, and Alpine, their input is critical to state highway officials about the future of the key ground transportation route through the area.

The master plan coincides with the expansion of the bridge over the Rio Grande linking Presidio, Texas and Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico from two lanes to four lanes, and the organic traffic growth along the route, and what could be more truck traffic, too.

Are more passing lanes needed between Presidio and Marfa? Yes, it’s tough to get stuck behind a slow-moving Solitaire Home heading north, or the farming equipment going south into Mexico on flatbed trucks. How about a rest stop-picnic area pull-off or two to stretch the legs, breathe the high desert air, and take in the views of the Chinati and Shafter mountains, the profile of Lincoln, Elephant Rock, and the 360-degree view from Big Hill.

Should there be bypasses around Marfa and Alpine, and where would they go? They were proposed for the La Entrada al Pacifico study several years ago. Would it take the dreaded Eminent Domain? Truck traffic would be diverted from downtown Marfa and Alpine, but what businesses, if any, would develop at the bypass: truck stops, restaurants, retail shops?

These are important issues for locals to consider and we need to tell TxDOT our views. Please attend these meetings.

The purpose of this first series of public meetings is to present the study goals and objectives, as well as to provide the communities with an opportunity to help shape the future of transportation along the US 67 Corridor. The public is invited to attend one of the four meetings; the same information will be presented at each meeting.

Meetings will be in an open house format where the public may come and go at their convenience and staff will be available to answer questions. No presentation will be given. Each meeting is scheduled from 5-7 p.m.

More information may be found on the project website, https://www.txdot.gov/inside-txdot/projects/studies/el-paso/us67-i10-presidio.html.