EL PASO, Texas - Earlier this year, county leaders voted 4-0 to pass a $10 vehicle registration hike. Commissioners said then they knew the move wouldn't be popular, today they showcased the reason they got behind the move in the first place.
Commissioners unanimously approved an interlocal agreement tying them to the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority. In essence, it's a master plan that will give them the opportunity to pursue 16 road projects totaling an estimated $400 million.
The County doesn't have representation on the Camino Real RMA, however, they will have some control of their money because each individual project will have it's own, separate, funding agreement.
County leaders and small community leaders hailed the deal as monumental. Alone, many of the communities couldn't have afforded to build their projects. By combining their money, resources, and efforts the 16 projects will bring more "bang for their buck."
Escobar called it a, "collaboration of key community leaders who have come together and said, ‘We want to do the greater thing by the El Paso community.'"
The projects (shown in the attached slideshow under "related content") spread from west El Paso to Tornillo. The projects range from improvements to I-10 and it's frontage road to changes to the connectivity to more rural parts of the county and connections for current highways.
The moves aren't done yet. In fact, a final approval will have to come from the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). According to the MPO chairman, Horizon City mayor Walter Miller, there is no doubt that the board will pass the projects.
The moves made today were in the making for a long time. Years ago the City of El Paso, and more recently the county, approved traffic reinvestment zones (TRZs). Those TRZs allow money to be saved for transportation projects from incremental increases to property taxes within the area surrounding that project. This past legislative session state Sen. Jose Rodriguez passed a rider on a bill that allowed county leaders to raise vehicle registration costs and give that money to a local RMA to fund transportation projects. Those steps, combined with today's and the upcoming MPO decision, allowed for today's multi-million dollar step forward for local infrastructure.
In the end, the county will account for an estimated $137 million for the projects. The town of Horizon City will invest $5 million, and the city of Soccoro will chip in $9 million. That combined investment convinced TxDOT, the MPO and other organizations to add $258 million.
While the moves are a "game changer," for the Borderland, those tied to the decision today said more improvements will be needed in the future. Funding for road improvements, or even upkeep, has been hard to come by from a state level. Rodriguez told ABC-7 that the state will have to take steps to ensure that maintenance is funding. He called today a sign to businesses that our local elected-officials will ensure that the Borderland will invest in its infrastructure regardless of the situation.