Residents worried changes to Upper Valley street could cause commercial traffic, future development

EL PASO, Texas - El Paso City Council on Tuesday voted to put a residential road in the Upper Valley on the Metropolitan Thoroughfare Plan (MTP) in an effort to make it eligible for funding of road improvements, though some residents fear the move makes the road susceptible to commercial traffic and future development.

By placing River Bend Drive between Frontera and Sunset on the MTP, the road is now eligible for federal funding in the future. City Representative Cortney Niland said the vote would make it much more likely to get funding to add bike/hike and equestrian trails next to the road, as well as road improvements.

Some residents said they fear the move will eventually make it easier to turn River Bend into a four-lane road and will be open to commercial traffic, such as semi trucks. They're also concerned the road will one day extend all the way to Sunland Park Drive, which would make it busier.

Niland said plans to extend River Bend to Sunland Park Drive were nixed when the  city determined it did not have to connect it to the major thoroughfare for it to be eligible for federal funding. She said the city also does not have any plans to make River Bend a four-lane road and can put weight and height limits to the road to restrict commercial traffic.

Several members of different neighborhood associations spoke about the issue at the council meeting on Tuesday. The Willows Association and the Upper Valley Neighborhood Association support the move the place River Bend on the MTP, according to their members at Tuesday's meeting.

Council voted four to three to place RIver Bend on the MTP. Representatives Michiel Noe, Cortney Niland, Emma Acosta and Larry Romero voted for the project.  Council members Eddie Holguin, Carl Robinson, and Lily Limon voted against the move.

Niland's successful motion also included language that limits River Bend to two lanes and only extends to Frontera. The project would cost about $3 million and would include trees, trails and road improvements.

Some residents were not convinced the move will keep River Bend a rural, quiet road. "If New Mexico, which abutts the area chooses to develop the land next to the road, then we'd be stuck with an increase in commercial traffic and what if the project to connect River Bend to Sunland Park comes up in two to five years?" asked on resident.

Niland said she plans to work with the different residents to ensure any future road improvements will restrict commercial traffic and limit the road to two lanes.

"I'm doing this for the safety of school children in the area who currently cannot walk to Zach White School without a sidewalk. This will make this road safer for them to walk and play in the area," Niland said.

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