Highway closures, temporary Border Patrol checkpoint unlikely to affect holiday commutes

TRI-COUNTY — This week the Texas Department of Transportation erected a sign on Highway 90 between Marfa and Alpine warning that the highway would be closed December 15 through December 22, requiring a detour through Fort Davis on Highway 118. 

However, motorists traveling through the Big Bend this holiday season who have been taking note of all the construction on local highways needn’t fear — these projects won’t have much of an impact on non-commercial vehicles. 

Lauren Macias-Cervantes, El Paso regional spokesperson for TxDOT, advised that the closure would impact commercial vehicles and noncommercial vehicles differently. Commercial vehicles traveling on that stretch of Highway 90 will have to reroute through Fort Davis during the construction period.

Non-commercial vehicles traveling between Marfa and Alpine will be re-routed through Mosley Loop and Murphy Street in Alpine, but will still be permitted to travel eastbound and westbound through Paisano Pass. The detours are necessary so that Union Pacific crews can complete the needed repairs to a railroad bridge west of Alpine that was damaged during a collision this fall. 

Back in October, a tractor trailer accidentally struck the rail bridge overpass. “At the time, we did some temporary repairs,” explained Mike Jaixen, a spokesperson for Union Pacific. Crews had to wait for steel and other materials to arrive for a permanent reconstruction of the bridge. “We’re hoping to have it all completed this week,” he assured, though weather and other factors could change that timeline. 

The closure this week is unrelated to the larger, region-wide projects TxDOT has been undertaking as part of the US-67 Master Plan. The projected date of completion for the guardrail installation project just outside Paisano Pass between Alpine and Marfa is the first phase of a two-part project that includes another area along Highway 17 In Jeff Davis County. The estimated completion date for both phases is July 15, 2023.

Further south on the 67 corridor, travelers headed between Marfa and Presidio-Ojinaga will have to stop at a temporary checkpoint near Cibolo Creek Ranch. The permanent Customs and Border Protection checkpoint just outside of Marfa is undergoing routine maintenance, a CBP spokesperson explained. At press time, the pavement leading under the checkpoint awning, where motorists typically stop and declare citizenship, had been excavated. The area was marked by a 50 m.p.h. speed limit.

The temporary checkpoint has all of the same equipment, facilities and staff as the regular checkpoint, it’s just housed in a mobile unit further south from its usual location. Motorists should proceed northbound from Presidio with caution — the temporary checkpoint isn’t marked with flashing lights. Instead, a temporary highway marker cautions drivers to go slow. The checkpoint has been installed in the passing lane just north of the Cibolo Creek Ranch gates, and drivers will be asked to lower their passenger side window for inspection. Customs and Border Protection declined to comment on how long the temporary checkpoint is expected to operate.