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City to start construction on pedestrian pathway

By Jerry Najera, Multimedia Journalist
Published On: Sep 27 2013 05:45:22 PM CDT

City officials say the pathway will connect the El Paso Downtown Arts District to Union Plaza.

EL PASO, Texas -

Trying to get visitors in the downtown area quicker access to the entertainment district is an issue the city has been dealing with for several years.

"Right now, it takes about 20 minutes to walk from the Museum of Art to Union Plaza because you have to go around the Convention Center," said City Engineering spokesman Martin Bartlett.

City officials say the Art District sees 1.5 million visitors a year. Union Plaza gets about a million visitors a year.

Now construction for a pedestrian pathway is set to begin in late October.

"One of the cool things about this project is that it's all pedestrian-focused," said Bartlett.

The pathway will run from the downtown area, behind the Convention Center, to the Union Plaza, but it's not designed to be an ordinary walkway.

"Bike racks, solar trash compactors, stamped concrete is going to evoke the imagery of the rail lines that run through the heart of downtown. So this isn't just a sidewalk or a walkway, this is a really highly designed pathway that really speaks to its place, speaks to downtown El Paso," said Bartlett.

The project also includes changes to the Durango Street bridge.

It would turn into a two-lane road with a wider pedestrian walkway.

Manager Craig Bird of the Garden in Union Plaza said they do see a disadvantage located away from the Arts District.

"We do get a lot of clientele that come and stay at the hotels and occasionally they'll tell us they couldn't find the place because were kind of in the back," said Bird.

Tabla general manager  Oscar Valdes told ABC-7 visitors are sometimes wary of walking into the area near the railroad tracks.

"People are still hesitant," said Valdes.

 Valdes feels the price tag of $6.5 million is well worth it.

"You see other towns like Austin, Dallas, they spent money, now they have thriving warehouse districts. So I think in the long run, you spend a little money but in the long run that return comes back double. Its sets the tone in place for El Paso downtown and it's inviting for the people in El Paso," he said.

The 6.5 million is coming from the quality of life bonds voters approved in 2012

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