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Plan El Paso 2010

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - 2011 - National Award for Smart Growth Achievement


Plan El Paso 2010

With the help of robust community input, Plan El Paso 2010 created a vision for three environmentally sustainable, transitoriented neighborhoods linked by bus rapid transit and anchored by the redevelopment of a former industrial site. El Paso rezoned the industrial site to make redevelopment easier and plans to use the new zoning around the city.


A city of more than 750,000 residents on the U.S.-Mexico border, El Paso was concerned about a variety of converging factors. Automobile-oriented development was isolating residents, while the upcoming expansion of a nearby military base created the need for thousands of housing units and increased infrastructure. In response, the city initiated Plan El Paso 2010, an effort to create more environmentally and socially sustainable communities connected by a bus rapid transit (BRT) network. El Paso's BRT is intended to improve the speed and reliability of transit between neighborhoods by integrating facilities, services, and amenities into one transportation system.

The public shaped this vision for growth during a two-week workshop that included more than 30 meetings with residents, businesses, and other stakeholders and hands-on design sessions where participants could sketch out ideas. Since over 70 percent of El Paso's residents speak Spanish as their primary language, the city conducted bilingual outreach to as many residents as possible, and a translator was present at all public events. The far-reaching plan was unanimously approved by the city council in 2009, and BRT construction began in 2010.

"I am a lifelong resident of El Paso. I've seen the city grow from a prosperous city in the 1950s to a sprawling, large city with all of the problems that come with it. Connecting El Paso is a huge step in the right direction which will help the city bring back its quality and prosperity through smart growth."– Charlie Wakeem, resident and Coronado Neighborhood Association president.

Plan El Paso 2010 creates transitoriented development in four areas:

• The Oregon Corridor, which connects a key U.S.-Mexico border crossing, the central El Paso business district, the University of Texas at El Paso, and other civic and cultural destinations. Bus and BRT lanes are currently being constructed to replace existing parallel parking.

• Five Points, a historic community, formerly connected to downtown via a streetcar line that shut down decades ago, contains homes and businesses in need of revitalization.

• Remcon Circle, the site of a BRT transfer station and a spread-out shopping area that is slated to be retrofitted to a walkable neighborhood with homes, offices, stores, and green spaces.

• The former location of the American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO), a 600-acre brownfield sits on one of the BRT routes. ASARCO is envisioned as a mixed-use, walkable, compact redevelopment that will stimulate cooperation between El Paso and its cross-border neighbor, Ciudad Juárez.

The city hopes that the new development in these four neighborhoods will provide welcoming streets and convenient destinations that give residents places to socialize in their neighborhoods, make them feel safe walking to local stores, and better connect them to the rest of the city with the BRT. By reinvesting in existing neighborhoods and preserving historic structures, El Paso honors the past and reinforces its sense of place.

The city council rezoned the ASARCO site using SmartCode, which will also apply to the other three neighborhoods. SmartCode emphasizes the form and design of buildings rather than their uses. It encourages mixing retail, businesses, and homes and requires streets to be welcoming to pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers. It also helps create and protect parks, greenways, arroyos (seasonal streams), and open space.

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Tags: Civic/Public Participation, Public Infrastructure, Transportation

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