Council bumps up Cincinnati Street revamp

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) - El Paso's Cincinnati entertainment district is on the verge of a makeover and it could happen sooner than expected thanks to the ongoing streetcar project.

El Paso City Council voted Tuesday to move funding around in order to piggyback off the trolley line construction.

The aim, according to city staff, is to make aesthetic and safety improvements to the Cincinnati area while the roadways are already torn up, saving both time and money.

The plan includes widening the sidewalks along Cincinnati Street, adding landscaping and overhead string lights, and constructing large, lighted archways to welcome visitors to the restaurants and bars.

The arches would also provide much-needed lighting in the area, according to District 1 City Rep. Peter Svarzbein.

"This seems to be the most cost-effective way to deal with a very serious issue of pedestrian safety," Svarzbein said.

But the rush to get it done now did not immediately sit well with District 2 City Rep. Alexsandra Annello.

She expressed concern that the city would basically be awarding the Cincinnati work to the trolley construction contractors without sending it out for bid.

City attorney Sylvia Borunda Firth told the council there was no legal concern with the move.

Annello also seemed frustrated that Tuesday's vote came with little notice and background information for the newly-elected representatives such as herself.

"We're sometimes given these options telling us, 'Oh, well, we have to make this decision now. If we wait much longer there's going to be a problem.' And I don't think that's acceptable," Annello said.

Acceptable or not, Tuesday's vote to move forward was unanimous. The next step is to enter into an inter-local agreement with the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, the agency overseeing the streetcar project.

According to city staff, the project will cost a total of $3.1 million. The money, they said, was already set aside for District 1 back in 2013.


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