El Paso’s impressive Loop 375 bypass could be extraordinary

Transmountain Freeway near the summit in El Paso, Texas – Source: brianwanchophotography.com

It’s not often that one comments about a specific freeway, but the Texas Loop 375 bypass of El Paso is not your typical highway. The freeway connects the central city with Interstate 10 southeast of town, then to US 62 to the east, US 54 to the north, and finally reconnecting back to Interstate 10 in the northwest corner of the city. Loop 375 is a limited-access bypass for those who are impressed by modern engineering paralleled with dramatic geography. Some sections of the freeway are still being improved and upgraded through the Franklin Mountains as can be seen in the photo below.

Passing westbound thru the Franklin Mountains – eastbound lanes being improved

What makes Loop 375 so fascinating are the wide-range of land uses and the radically varied landscapes it passes through along its 49-mile course. Starting adjacent to the Rio Grande River near the heart of El Paso, it first serves as a commuter corridor by traveling southeast and paralleling the great river/international border. Then the freeway abruptly turns northeast and northward amidst the sprawling Chihuahuan desert-edge suburbs located to the south and east of town. Loop 375 proceeds to pass through active military bases (no wandering off the freeway here), commercial corridors, rugged mountains, a state park, and upstream river valley suburbs before concluding at Interstate 10 just a few miles from the New Mexico state line.

Source: maps.google.com

The terrain and elevation changes are dramatic as the highway climbs, traverses, and then rapidly descends the Franklin Mountains. This particular segment of Loop 375 is aptly named the Transmountain Expressway.

Another view while climbing the mountains

Outstanding views of this multi-state and international metropolitan area are part of the package. I just wish I had taken more photos along the route from my navigator position in the front passenger seat. Below are a couple of other photos found on the internet, but none of them do the spectacular views enough justice.

Source: visitelpaso.com

However, one design variation that might have reduced impacts to the natural terrain and wildlife movement within the mountains/state park would have been if Texas had constructed a tunnel beneath Smuggler’s Gap instead of a cut through it (see photo below). Thankfully, a wildlife and pedestrian underpass has been included on the Transmontain Corridor, though given the nature and topography of this area, more are likely needed.

Cut through Smuggler’s Gap at 5,250 feet – Source: pinterest.com

Hopefully, Texas will soon construct more animal and/or pedestrian crossings to help reduce potential for tragic impacts from the highway upgrade and to facilitate both safe animal and human movement within this ruggedly scenic mountain range. Otherwise, the considerable effort that went into the design and engineering for building the Loop 375 freeway bypass will have been tragically shortsighted…and much too ordinary for 21st century demands.

This entry was posted in Cars, cities, commerce, economic development, geography, Highway displacement, highways, hiking, history, infrastructure, land use, logistics, pictures, planning, spatial design, sprawl, topography, tourism, Trade, traffic, trails, transportation, Transportation, Travel, urban planning, walking, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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