Monthly Archives: February 2008

The “No Build Option”

 Last week Brian Swindell, with HDR Consultants recommended a “no build option” based on current and projected freight traffic at the Presidio Port of Entry. The numbers are based on a formula considering various scenarios of traffic originating from a future deep water port at Topolabampo, Mexico and the Chihuahua maquiladora industry. The maximum projected  number of 729 trucks crossing daily through the Presidio PoE by 2030 does not warrant the expense of an expanded 4 lane trade corridor. PERIOD. DONE…..No we’re not done yet. TxDot and HDR are continuing to investigate alternate reliever routes. What is the point with that, when projected freight volume is not there?
So why does the study continue? Marfa’s, John Wotowicz has presented a clear-succinct-presentation.pdf of where we are, with this scam. It has to stop now, before more tax payers money is spent, and lastly, take down the La Entrada trade corridor signs along our highways.

Advertisements

Fran Sage, 2/14/08, Part Three

LA ENTRADA AT THE CROSSROADS: PART THREE

BY FRAN SAGE

To conclude my three part series of articles leading to the February 19th public meeting sponsored by TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation), let us return to the agenda. For the last year, the HDR Consulting Team, headed by Brian Swindell, has been working to project freight growth figures through the Port of Entry at Ojinaga/Presidio. After the team announces whether they propose to continue working on a four-lane divided highway or not, they will continue to assess what would need to be done to make the route workable based on the data accumulated and the understanding of the volume of freight anticipated crossing the border into Texas. They would then have to determine what the safety improvements and/or the expansion of existing highways would need to be and what costs would be required. The Study Team would then have to look at environmental, engineering and mobility impacts, including safety and cost factors, in order to assess the best routes for these improvements.

 

But what would they do if they conclude that potential growth would not warrant continuing, if the Port of Topolobampa and the road or trains coming through Copper Canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental range separating the Mexican west coast from Chihuahua City would not be complete and functioning by 2030, the limits of the feasibility study? If a no build is announced, then will more analysis be needed?

 

The answer is yes. As you could see in the figures from Part Two of this series there will still be traffic which is expected to grow from the interior, from Chihuahua City and that general area. Remember the prospects for NAFTA being revised or cancelled are almost nil. We will have some traffic regardless. In either case—build or no build— further analyses will be needed. Mr. Swindell says, “Once it is determined whether a four-lane highway is feasible or not, we will determine where to focus our attention on potential improvements. These improvements will be proposed on the currently designated La Entrada al Pacifico Corridor and potentially on other route(s) that indicate a significant volume of traffic.” Another way of understanding this is that if the designated route is not workable or if traffic is shown to prefer another route, this other route might become a good alternate for the designated trade corridor.

Prior to the meeting a threshold table is being prepared. This threshold table will determine the Level of Service and then grade, like a “report card”, the highways based on an “A” for free flow to “F” for serious congestion, with an acceptable level midway between. The projected traffic figures will be related to all potential routes and will combine the freight forecast with the local traffic already here. The threshold table would safeguard against over or under estimations of traffic and would be used to signal what level of traffic would require additional work on the highways or segments of the highways.

At the meeting the audience will be asked to look at the possible alternative routes and indicate which of those routes need further assessment and which routes have significant “fatal flaws.” Those that remain will be further evaluated through a “matrix screening” that will assess routes for engineering, mobility, and environmental impacts.

 

Visit the TxDOT La Entrada website at

http://www.dot.state.tx.us/services/transportation_planning_and_programming/la_entrada/default.htm That site will have the data used, an executive summary, maps, and newsletters. If your paper does not have the possible alternative routes map, check out the site for the map. cac_map1.pdf

 

Whether the recommendations include four-lane widening or merely safety and/or mobility improvements, alternative routes need examination. The threshold table is now being developed for display at the Public Meeting. Below are a few questions that come to my mind.

 

  • How credible is the data that interior Mexican freight growth will happen? What was looked at to determine that projected growth and how inclusive is that data?

 

  • What improvements will be needed at the port of entry both on the Mexican and Texas side of the river?

 

  • What would need to be done to have the traffic coming up from Chihuahua City to continue to divert to Juarez/El Paso?

 

  • If a workable alternative route needs improvement would the designated route also be improved?

 

Those are just a few questions that occur to me. This three-part series has been as factual as I could make it and does not include opinion. I hope to write an opinion piece at the end of the month based on what we learn at the meeting.

 

I urge you TO ATTEND THE MEETING, LOOK AT THE DISPLAYS, HEAR THE PRESENTATIONS AND THEN COMMENT AND ASK QUESTIONS. WHILE WE ARE ALL CONCERNED ABOUT TRUCKS COMING THROUGH, LET’S GET A GRIP ON OUR WORRIES BY PRESSING TO UNDERSTAND MORE SO THAT WE CAN TAKE AN ACTIVE ROLE BOTH WITHIN THE STUDY PROCESS AND BEYOND IT. WE WILL CONTINUE TO LIVE OUT HERE LONG PAST WHEN THE STUDY IS DONE AND THE TEAM HAS LEFT.

 

The meetings will be held as listed below:

 

Alpine: Tuesday February 19, 2008, SRSU, Marshall Auditorium 6 pm

Presidio: Wednesday February 20, 2008, Presidio High School 1000 E. FM 170 6 pm

Midland: Monday, February 25, 2008, Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) University of Texas at the Permian

Basin 6 pm

Ft. Stockton: Tuesday February 26, 2008, Ft. Stockton High School, 1200 W. 17th Street, 6 pm

 

All of these articles when finished will be posted to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club website at http://texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend/ and to the Stewards of the Big Bend website www.stopthetrucks.org .

Fran Sage, 2/7/08, Part Two

LA ENTRADA AT THE CROSSROADS, PART TWO

BY FRAN SAGE

At the February 19th hearing in Alpine, Brian Swindell and his HDR consulting team will present where they are in the feasibility study and where they will go next. They are at a juncture, the point where they will recommend whether the four lane La Entrada al Pacifico looks viable and the remainder of the study would work out the details on that assumption OR the point where they have determined the four lane route is not feasible and the remainder of the study would focus on local area safety and mobility issues. While some number crunching remains to be done, the recommendation will be ready at the upcoming meeting. The decision, however, will not be firm until public responses have been heard and any revisions made in light of that response have been completed. The consulting team has gathered enough data to feel confident in their method and statistical model projecting the freight diversion growth through the port of Presidio.

 

Citizens at the four meetings will be elated or upset or possibly in some cases indifferent.

Those of us in the tri-city area of Alpine, Fort Davis, and Marfa hope that the results of the La Entrada study indicate that minimal freight traffic will be coming our way, and that the need to plan for a continuing threat from significantly increased truck traffic will fade away. One caution however, with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) functioning, we can expect growth even if the Mexican route does not happen.

 

Readers may go to the La Entrada website for the Executive Summary, the full report, a list of the sources, a discussion of the methodology and the conclusions, though the recommendation on where to go from here will not be available until the meeting.

 

Note that the report is primarily a statistical study, though some other factors have been taken into account. The Freight Forecast Results are presented for three possible results:

 

(1) A “no build scenario with no significant highway improvements to the LEAP Corridor on either the U. S. or Mexican side of the border;

(2) Completion of Mexican port and highway prior to 2020;

(3) Completion of Mexican port and highway after 2030. The study’s projected limit is 2030.

Below is a table illustrating the number of trucks for each scenario.

 

COMPARISON OF ANTICIPATED FREIGHT FORECASTS

THROUGH PRESIDIO

Average Annual Daily Truck Traffic

Scenario Considered

Description

2010

2015

2020

2025

2030

Baseline

· Internal Mexico Growth

44

60

82

112

152

Prior to 2020

· All necessary Mexico Infrastructure completed prior to the year 2020

· Diversion from other Ports of Entry

· Internal Mexico Growth

47

125

195

456

739

After 2030

· Diversion from other Ports of Entry

· Internal Mexico Growth

· Mexican Route not completed by 2030

47

125

174

243

338

Because traffic forecasts have an element of uncertainty, the projections could overestimate or underestimate future traffic within the timeframe. Therefore, a threshold table will serve as a safeguard; that is, no action would be taken unless future activity indicates that the threshold would soon be reached. The threshold discussion will be general with a closer look later when needed. The table will show varying levels of congestion.

 

Before going further in our discussion, we need to remind ourselves that what led to this study in the first place was the growing belief that United States ports of entry would reach capacity and that Mexican ports would be developed to gain the trade currently passing into the United States. The NAFTA agreement would allow traffic to flow in from Mexico at various border ports of entry.

 

The team looked first at possible diversion of Asian goods from the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in California. Judgments were made as to how much of that trade might come to the Port of Topolobampo, assuming that the necessary work had been completed at the port. That is a major assumption and is dependent 1) on the expansion of the port facilities (including container terminals) and the dredging of the port to accommodate larger container vessels; and 2) improvements to the Mexican highway between Topolobampo and Chihuahua City including through Copper Canyon.

 

But the team needed to look at other variables such as the Lazaro Cárdenas port further down the Mexican west coast, currently being expanded with a new terminal and port facilities and connections to a rail route across Mexico and into Texas at Laredo. Other variables include the potential for the Puerto Colonet on the Pacific coast of Baja California being developed. It would be a huge port that could handle sizeable amounts of trade currently going to Los Angeles and Long Beach. The port at Manzanilla much further down the Mexican west coast was also considered.

 

The team also assessed the Texas Gulf Coast Ports and other ports of entry into Texas, looking at how much traffic would be diverted.

 

In terms of Mexican freight growth, the team assessed the overall economic growth in Mexico and the impact of this growth on freight destined to the U. S. In addition, recent trends for maquiladoras were considered.

 

I recommend looking at the Executive Summary for discussion of these efforts.

 

Next week I will discuss other items for discussion at the February 19th meeting including safety and mobility improvement and alternative routes.

 

I URGE ALL CITIZENS TO COME TO THE MEETINGS, LISTEN TO THE PRESENTATION AND ASK QUESTIONS AND COMMENT. BOTH THE CONSULTING TEAM AND TxDOT KNOW THAT THE TRI CITY AREAS IN THE BIG BEND OPPOSE THE LA ENTRADA. THE TASK NOW AT HAND IS TO UNDERSTAND THE FREIGHT GROWTH PROJECTIONS AND RAISE ANY MATTERS RELATED TO THEM.

 

The public meetings are scheduled as follows:

Alpine: Tuesday February 19, 2008, SRSU, Marshall Auditorium 6 pm

Presidio: Wednesday February 20, 2008, Presidio High School 1000 E. FM 170 6 pm

Midland: Monday, February 25, 2008, Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) University of Texas at the Permian

Basin 6 pm

Ft. Stockton: Tuesday February 26, 2008, Ft. Stockton High School, 1200 W. 17th Street, 6 pm

All of these articles when finished will be posted to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club website at http://texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend/ and to the Stewards of the Big Bend website www.stopthetrucks.org .