EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Texas A&M University is spearheading a study to improve the movement of pedestrians between El Paso and Juarez, Mexico.

Researchers for the next 18 months will be interviewing commuters, identifying safety concerns and suggesting to government agencies ways to get people who just crossed a U.S. port of entry more quickly and efficiently to their destination.

“The purpose (of the study) is to look at improvements that will help increase traffic from the ports of entry to businesses and retail services in El Paso,” said Rafael Aldrete, senior research scientist at Texas A&M Transportation Institute. “We’ll be working with stakeholders and the public in identifying needed improvements for pedestrians and transit users.”

Some of the concerns are self-evident. Border crossers must share a walkway between the Paso del Norte port of entry and South El Paso Street with cars and cabs coming westbound from Oregon Street. Border Report on Thursday observed elderly commuters and people on their cell phones walk in front of cars waiting to make a right turn.

Pedestrians coming from the Paso del Norte port of entry often must share the walkway to South El Paso Street with cars turning right from Oregon Street. (Border Report photo)

The researchers also will look at more efficient access to city buses. That should help speed travel for people who just crossed the border on their way to the University of Texas at El Paso, University Medical Center and other hospitals, El Paso malls and nearby towns like Socorro, Horizon City and others.

“It can be difficult to reach businesses in the vicinity of ports of entry and also difficult to reach transit access points. This project is about identifying those missing links […] Boosting pedestrian traffic to businesses generates more sales, more taxes, therefore, generating additional economic activity and employment in El Paso,” Aldrete said.

The study is being funded by a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The project will be managed by a steering committee that will include local, state and federal agencies. Findings will be published and shared so that agencies apply for specific grants to make improvements on their end.

“The whole idea is to identify the issues, identify the solutions and leave the groundwork prepared to pursue (funding),” Aldrete said.