The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) El Paso District is currently constructing the $100 Million highway reconstruction project in the “Spaghetti Bowl”. The project adds connectors to the series of highway interchanges along the I-10 (the southernmost cross-country highway in the American Interstate Highway System), I-110 (shortest interstate highway in Texas), US 54, and Loop 375 (Cesar Chavez Border Highway) Corridors. The additions impact international and local travel and address connectivity, mobility, and congestion on the existing roadway network.
The I-10 Connect project consists of progressive highway design elements and involves extensive coordination with the largest US/Mexico Port of Entry in El Paso, the Bridge of the Americas (BOTA).
The project expands US 54, I-10, I-110, and US 62 (Paisano), and includes eight bridge replacements, one railroad overpass, five bridge widenings, and two new direct connectors. The project widens I-110, provides separate truck lanes for Southbound traffic going to Mexico, and provides multi-modal improvements along US 62 which experiences more than 1 million pedestrian crossings per year. Once complete, the project will provide unprecedented connection to multiple high-volume arteries and alternate routes. The project design was completed in 10 months, and the cost estimates were within two percent of the low bid.
The project addressed complex challenges, including:
- Maintaining traffic flow, to and from, the largest Port of Entry in El Paso and maintaining safe and continuous operations along I-10 and US 54 (which carry more than 190,000 and 68,000 vehicles per day, respectively)
- Designing new direct connectors and split ramps, with new loading standards, and connecting beams to the 50-year old I-10/US 54 interchange with direct connectors designed to very different loading criteria
- Construction and demolition of bridges over live Union Pacific Railroad tracks
- Developing a sequence of construction that allowed for on-going right of way (ROW) acquisition
- Subsurface utility engineering for multiple utilities plus numerous unknown, abandoned utilities since the project area was residential prior to the interstate’s construction
- Site constraints included a historic building within the interchange footprint, murals on existing columns, and the Franklin Canal which is on the National Register of Historic Places
- Creating an aesthetically pleasing Gateway for international traffic entering the City and the State of Texas consisting of bald and golden eagles cast into retaining walls
The design team lead by Consultant Project Manager (PM) Rafael Cruz-Rodriguez PE (Omega Engineers, Inc.) and TxDOT PM Antonio Santana PE implemented numerous innovations during the design phase, including:
- ITS Smart Work Zones (a first in El Paso) to inform motorists and encourage alternate routes while enhancing safety during construction
- Bluetooth and Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) Signs, Color Dynamic Message Signs, Lane Management System and Single Mode Fiber Communication to enhance communication with facility users
- Separated Freight Lanes that enhance safety
- Barrier Gates for Emergency Response that enhance response time and assist with incident management
- Restricted Crossing U-Turns along US 62 and a protected pedestrian mid-block crossing with a HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) signal
- Recycled concrete from the demolished material for use as base and Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) wall backfill
- OpenRoads 3D models for each construction phase to ensure safety and to expedite outstanding ROW acquisitions of critical parcels
- Utilized A+B bidding that resulted in 300 days of time savings, and included incentives and disincentives associated with milestones, and
Photos (above): Ahead of project construction starting, I-10 Connect project manager Antonio Santana PE (top) and Alan Gonzalez PE (bottom), talk to residents at a Lincoln Park Festival informational booth where displays were set up and fliers handed out about the upcoming project.
. Credit: TxDOT El Paso District.
Innovative International Collaboration
Due to the critical connection to international travel, continuous collaboration was and is required with entities on both sides of the border. The project’s outreach includes a robust multiplatform, bilingual, binational approach to ongoing construction communications. In addition to regular news releases, email blasts, and bilingual social media videos, the communications strategy includes a bilingual project hotline, bilingual text message alerts that are delivered in advance of major traffic impacts, and monthly community meetings to apprise the public of project updates and address questions. Multiple meetings and presentations in Juarez, Mexico, with the Customs and Border Protection and the City of El Paso Bridges Committee effectively enhance collaboration and communication.
The project presented challenging community concerns including addressing Lincoln Park, an area with rich culture and building history that included murals painted on the bridge columns under I-10, which the team worked to protect and preserve.
TxDOT designers met with members of the Lincoln Center Conservation Committee at the project site and walked to each of the existing columns with murals to determine which columns could be saved from the construction. TxDOT could only save five columns with murals but committed to save and protect the very first mural at the site that has special significance to the community. In addition, TxDOT also offered proposed columns as locations for future murals.
TxDOT’s public outreach during the design phase included staffing a booth at the Committee’s annual Lincoln Park Festival. This festival is visited by thousands from the community and from states like Arizona and California. TxDOT designers distributed project information to the festival goers and talked about general project information including the loss of the existing murals and opportunities for additional murals.
Based on public input, the Project Team also coordinated on minimizing/avoiding impacts to Lincoln Center. As the project developed and the public raised other concerns, the Project Team followed a process of developing alternatives, conducting work group and public meetings, assessing the public’s input and evaluating multiple alternatives. TxDOT also discussed the options for protecting the Lincoln Center building during construction and committed to coordinate and work with the Committee on access to the area during and after construction.
Through coordination, the Project Team also found ways to refine the project alternatives to reduce the potential for idling semi-trucks near the Port of Entry and in adjacent neighborhoods to address concerns about air quality, noise, and safety. This was accomplished through re‐routing truck traffic to I‐110 and utilizing flexible lanes to allow I‐110 to adapt to peak usage times at the POE.
Other features include addressing the historic Franklin Canal (NRHP), and the Chamizal National Memorial, reconstructing the existing I-10 at US 54 interchange direct connector structures, demolishing the existing three level interchange at US 62 and I-110 and converting it to a two-level interchange, providing a multi-phase Traffic Control Plan with extensive public outreach, demolishing and constructing over a live Union Pacific Railroad line, and solving complex drainage systems and a pump station in the vicinity of the Rio Grande River.
Consultant PM Rafael Cruz-Rodriguez PE, in close coordination with TxDOT PM Antonio Santana PE, led the design and are heavily involved in the Construction Management for this large project. Though not expected to be complete until 2021, the project is already receiving recognition. The I-10 Connect Project received the 2019 TxDOT Environmental Achievement Award. The award recognizes exemplary projects and programs that fulfill transportation objectives while simultaneously going above and beyond routine procedures to protect and enhance the natural and human environment. The project was also presented at the 2018 ITE Joint Western States and Texas Conference, in Colorado for TCP innovation and implementation of ITS and Smart Work Zone Techniques.
Photos (top to bottom): Mural Site Visit – Members of the I-10 Connect project team join members of the Lincoln Park Conservation Committee for a walk through of murals ahead of construction to discuss potential impact; Association Meeting – Members of the I-10 Connect project team join members of the Lincoln Park Conservation Committee for a joint meeting to review project design plans and potential park impact and protection; Festival Grounds Visuals – Before and after colorful murals were added; Low rider vehicles line Lincoln Park during the annual cultural festival. Credit: TxDOT El Paso District
Additional information on Omega Engineers, Inc. can be found here.
Additional information on TxDOT El Paso District can be found here.