New Sun Metro transfer center transforming Northeast El Paso

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EL PASO – Rufino Cantor, 65, lives downtown and relies exclusively on public transportation to get around. His daily 30 -to-40-minute bus ride from his home downtown to spend time with his family in Northeast El Paso will soon become more pleasant and convenient with the expected completion in fall 2017 of the Northgate Transfer Center.

The new Sun Metro transportation hub sits on 7.5 acres in Northeast El Paso and is in the first phase of a 30-acre city-owned site. The transfer center will include amenities like shopping, a public plaza, art spaces and even a local farmer’s market.

The remaining 22.5 acres is slated for future development through a public-private partnership. The city is currently in talks with a developer to build the additional transit-oriented development of retail, residential units, parking and new streets.

“In my opinion the project is huge,” said Cantor who is retired and likes to sing in public. “It’s perfect because the existing bus terminal doesn’t even have a store to buy a burrito. This way we will have a mall, we will be able to go shopping and have a meal. This is great since the community is growing.”

Scheduled to open in November of 2017, the Northgate Transfer Center, at Diana and Dyer streets, is expected to improve the quality of life for northeast residents and also attract entrepreneurs and small businesses. Previously, it was the site of an older defunct shopping center called Northgate Mall.

“This project consists of a parking lot, 17,000 square feet of commercial area but most importantly it will have a bus transfer zone,” said Eugenio Mesta, the architect in charge of the project.

“With this project we will have a more commercial and residential component. People will be able to take advantage of the proximity of the urban transport system and they will have the opportunity to travel to downtown El Paso in a fast and efficient way,” Mesta said.

“Part of this is that we have a mixture of commercial and residential resources and also local transportation, he said. “We believe that the combination of these will help revitalize this area and it will be a sustainable development.”

Students and staff at Irvin High School, located five blocks from the new transfer center, are expected to benefit from the transportation hub. Students, including those who cross the International bridge from Juarez every day to attend school in El Paso, will now have additional access to public transportation to and from the border bridge, as well as public spaces to relax and places to shop.

Olga Lidia Hernandez, a resident of Juarez who travels to El Paso to purchase consumer goods, said the new facility will certainly make her trips more pleasant. She currently uses a small existing bus that lacks public amenities and is near the new transfer center.

She said the Northgate Transfer Center will be a great place to do her shopping. “I heard about the project a long time ago, but I was not aware of what exactly they were planning to do.”

Rolando Salgado, a student at the University of Texas in El Paso, said he uses public transportation every day and often has to wait several hours for his bus to arrive.

“Now I will be able to buy food without running the risk of missing my bus,” Salgado said. “I use the public transportation system to get to school every day and sometimes to visit my family.”

Although planning for the project began in 2010, the construction started a few weeks ago. It’s expected to open in late 2017.

Residents from both sides of the border expect the new transfer center to make cross-border transportation faster and more efficient.

“I hope that this project is really good and that benefits us all – not only people from El Paso but also from Juarez because we are sister cities,” Cantor said.

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