TxDOT conducted an advanced corridor study for the I-10 corridor from the New Mexico and Texas State Line to FM 3380 (Aguilera International Highway). The purpose of the study was to analyze and evaluate the current and future transportation needs for the I-10 El Paso corridor. This study was called “Reimagine I-10,” to emphasize the need to reimagine how the corridor operates today and develop unique solutions for the El Paso area.
With five U.S. and Mexico ports of entry within the study limits and with the use of I-10 as a major east/west freight corridor, the importance of this corridor is far-reaching. Furthermore, El Paso is experiencing significant growth and development, but because of its unique geographical location El Paso is limited to any alternative routing options, which ultimately puts more demand on to I-10.
The Reimagine I-10 corridor study consists of three layers of study for improvements: operational, corridor-wide, and technological. Within each layer, solutions such as ramp consolidation, additional capacity and truck platooning will be considered.
The I-10 corridor was broken into four segments, or context areas, to identify unique characteristics and needs specific to that segment that may not be applicable to the entire project area.
The study area spans 55 centerline miles and about 292 main-lane miles, from the border of Texas/New Mexico to Tornillo. It includes more than 200 bridge structures, and 160 egress/ingress ramps. Additionally, the corridor includes sections with frontage roads, which provide mobility and connectivity to over 60 intersections to include major highway to highway direct connectors.
Study Outreach and Participation
The Reimagine I-10 Corridor Study began in early 2017. Throughout the study’s progress, TxDOT and the study team (led by TxDOT Project Manager Hugo Hernandez, Consultant Project Manager (HDR Inc) Brian Swindell PE, and Environmental and Public Involvement Specialist (Blanton & Associates) Kim Johnson), conducted several rounds of outreach efforts, including work group meetings, public meetings, one-on-one meetings, and community engagement efforts.
The study showcased at the 2019 TXDOT Environmental Conference for piloting many innovative public outreach strategies to engage and encourage public and stakeholder participation while balancing in-person meetings and workshops; some of these innovations include virtual public meetings, movie theater trailers, live meeting menti-meter polls, and social media posts. The following summary provides an overview of these efforts.
Public involvement and stakeholder input were critical to the study’s development. The comments received were essential to TxDOT and helped identify the ways the concepts could potentially impact the community and the environment. The following goals and objectives for the corridor were identified through collaboration with TxDOT, stakeholders, and the public, and used as basis for concept development:
- Mobility & Circulation: Facilitate movement through and within the corridor
- Environmental: Design to minimize impacts to the human and natural environment
- Multimodal: Offer innovative transportation concepts
- Design: Comply with accepted design standards to improve safety along the corridor
- Value: Ensure that improvements are sustainable and balanced with respect to costs and benefits
- Technology: Leverage advancing technologies to address corridor issues
Approach and Development
Because of the study area extent and it’s regional complexity, the study team developed a seven-step approach to develop the corridor study.
- Step 1: Determine Existing Conditions: An assessment of the general study area and roadway network was conducted to develop a project baseline to measure against in the concept development and analysis steps of the study. This step included a traffic analysis that included traffic projections and an origin and destination (O&D) study.
- Step 2: Public Outreach Series #1: Meetings with the public and stakeholders were held to gain awareness of issues along the I-10 corridor.
- Step 3: Refine Goals and Objectives and Develop Preliminary Concepts: Public input was used to clarify and prioritize goals and objectives. Preliminary concepts were developed and evaluated using qualitative constraints data and the baseline information that was established in determining the existing conditions.
- Step 4: Public Outreach Series #2: Preliminary concepts and traffic analysis findings were presented to the public. These meetings provided the public and stakeholders an opportunity to ask questions and comment in detail about the preliminary concepts and evaluation process.
- Step 5: Refine Concepts and Identify Recommended Concept: Based on public comments and traffic analysis, refinements were made to the preliminary concepts and a recommended concept was established.
- Step 6: Public Outreach Series #3: The recommended concept and traffic analysis findings were presented to the public, along with viable technology applications and bike/pedestrian improvements. The layout of a potential downtown deck plaza was also shown to gauge public interest. (Deck plaza engineering, construction, maintenance, and amenities would require financial partnerships.)
- Step 7: Refine Preferred Concept and Develop Implementation Plan: Coordination with stakeholders continued throughout this step, and several one-on-one meetings were held. Two internal workshops were held to prioritize break out projects and interim improvements. Geotechnical, economic and technology reports were created and summarized in the overall feasibility report.
Considerations and Findings
Five international ports of entry exist within the study area, including the third busiest truck port in the United States in 2017. Combined, rail and truck traffic, is expected to increase 50% between 2016 and 2025, and projections estimate 4,300 daily truck border crossings by 2045. I-10 is a critical freight route for the United States, running over 2,400 miles from Los Angeles, CA to Jacksonville, FL. I-10 is used more intensely for freight movement during colder months, when other east-west routes like I-40 experience undesirable driving conditions due to winter weather.
I-10 between downtown and US 54 is the 86th most congested roadway in Texas (with an annual cost of delay of $11.93 million), and 75th most congested in terms of truck delay (with an annual cost of truck delay of $2.02 million). Traffic analysis concluded that if improvements are not implemented on I-10, delays and user costs will significantly increase over the next 20 years. As congestion on I-10 worsens, it will likely spread onto arterials and local streets as drivers seek alternative routes.
The most severe traffic congestion on I-10 occurs in the event of a crash or stalled vehicle. Incident management tends to be more difficult and delays tend to be more pronounced where frontage roads are discontinuous or non-existent. Continuous frontage roads could provide additional capacity when mainlanes are compromised and could make it easier for drivers to access alternative routes.
The I-10 corridor currently lacks bike and pedestrian friendly infrastructure along many cross streets and frontage roads. Transit vehicles traveling along the I-10 corridor are not separated from car traffic, making travel times unreliable and arrival/departure times difficult to predict. Improvements to bike and pedestrian infrastructure and transit service could lead to more transportation options for people traveling within the El Paso region.
Of the 202 bridge structures along I-10 within the study area, 31 bridges are classified as functionally obsolete (meaning they are no longer being used as originally intended because traffic exceeds design volumes) and 28 bridges do not meet minimum clearance. Compliance with clearance requirements is critical for freight movement, as failure to comply can lead to costly detours. The study area has a high percentage of bridges that are aging, with 64% of bridges older than 50 years (compared to 44% statewide). Infrastructure age also affects I-10 pavement. Geotechnical analysis indicates numerous areas require attention.
Estimated future traffic volumes were developed based on historic and projected travel demand, then used to evaluate concepts in the El Paso region. Recommendations for operational improvements to better accommodate estimated future traffic volumes included ramp consolidation, X-ramp configuration, auxiliary/speed-change lanes, intersection improvements, and continuous frontage roads. New traditional underpasses and innovative intersection configurations were recommended, which include the continuous flow intersection (CFI), the single point urban interchange (SPUI), and the diverging diamond interchange (DDI).
Four corridor-wide typical cross sections were developed with study goals and objectives in mind. These typical sections addressed anticipated corridor capacity needs. Concept 3 was ultimately chosen as the recommended concept due to the multimodal benefit it could offer along with a reduced ROW footprint when compared with Concept 4.
With heavy industrial activity along the corridor, it would be very beneficial to remove truck traffic from the general-purpose lanes and redirect them to “adaptive lanes”. Many studies have been done on truck-only lanes, but there are few applications across the United States. Removing trucks from the main-lanes can relieve congestion during peak hours, increase safety for general vehicles, and improve efficiency and reliability for trucks that are carrying time-sensitive goods. It is critical to plan for truck use of adaptive lanes early, as trucking facilities have different design standards and requirements.
Additional recommendations related to technology included updates to existing corridor technology infrastructure and five potential pilot projects: truck parking and port of entry reservation, 5G, corridor electrification, unmanned aircraft (drone) system incident management, and truck platooning. These recommendations are expected to further alleviate traffic congestion and delay if applied.
Bicycle and pedestrian recommendations, particularly in the downtown area, provide missing connections and are intended to improve the usefulness and user experience of the multimodal network in and around El Paso. The El Paso Bike Plan is accommodated between the I-10 frontage roads at each cross street.
Potential Projects & Next Steps
Recommendations were compiled into a recommended concept called the “Build” scenario and evaluated against the “No Build” scenario. The recommended concept performed better from a traffic and safety standpoint, as well as addressing other corridor needs. This recommended concept will be further evaluated in future phases of design. The purpose of the Reimagine I-10 Study was to determine the feasibility of recommendations. The next phase will divide the recommended concept into projects and involve more in-depth analysis and design, including an environmental process. Subsequently, the final project phases are design and construction.
FIGURE 16. 2042 No Build PM Peak Hour Vissim Video Downtown Segment 2 and Airport Segment 3
FIGURE 17. 2042 Build PM Peak Hour Vissim Video Downtown Segment 2 and Airport Segment 3
Concept recommendations from Build and No Build were then prioritized by segments. This prioritization was based on stakeholder feedback, needs, benefits, costs, and dependence on other projects. Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) and its Transportation Demand Model (TDM), from the El Paso Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), also played a key factor in prioritization for each segment. This not only provided a corridor level priority, but also included a regional dependence to demographics and other projects in the El Paso area. Level of Service (LOS) was the deciding factor in preventing future corridor and regional breakdown. Downtown Segment 2 models resulted in the highest traffic volumes in 2042 PM Peak Hour projections, hence the top priority segment of the Reimagine I-10 Corridor Study.
Lastly, recommendations were grouped into projects. “Interim improvements” are relatively low-cost projects that can address more pressing corridor needs until funding is obtained for larger, more costly projects. “Break Out Projects” are components of the recommended concept that can be built over time. “Interim Improvements” and “Break Out Projects” were categorized as short, mid, or long term, indicating their priority.
Reimagine I-10 Corridor Study approach and findings successfully engaged the public and various stakeholders in the El Paso region. Such that, the first break out project stemming from the study recommended is the Downtown Segment 2, now called Downtown 10. Downtown 10 is at initial stages of schematic and environmental process with target completion of 2024. While funding for this segment has not been allocated, many unique transportation-related opportunities exist within the downtown segment of the Reimagine I-10 Corridor Study and would need to be developed in coordination with local area businesses to develop partnerships. Initial stakeholder meetings have already taken place and the first public meeting is planned for Summer 2020.
For more on this study or Downtown 10 visit: TxDOT.gov, Keyword: Reimagine I-10