Skip to main content

Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive (Texas State Highway Loop 375)

Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive is a ten-mile component of Texas State Highway Loop 375 located in the El Paso area.  Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive connects US Route 54 west over the Franklin Mountains to Interstate 10 (also US Route 85 and US Route 180) and functions as a bypass to downtown El Paso.  Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive undoubtedly is the most notable part of the overall forty-nine-mile routing of Texas State Highway Loop 375.  Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive opened in 1970 and carries grades as high as 8%.  The corridor of Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive passes through Franklin Mountains State Park and Castner Range National Monument.  

Part 1; the history of Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive

Fusselman Canyon is a natural cut which follows a fault of the same name through the Franklin Mountains.  The terrain of Fusselman Canyon has made it a natural bypass of much of El Paso well before the establishment of Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive.  The canyon was named in honor former Texas Ranger and U.S. Marshall Charles Fusselman.  Charles Fusselman was shot and killed trying to apprehend cattle rustlers in the Franklin Mountains during April 1890.  The name "Smugglers Pass" now used by Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive is a reference to the cattle rustling incident of April 1890. 

A primitive road can be seen ascending Fusselman Canyon west of Lenoria siding and the White Oaks Railroad on the 1896 United States Geological Survey Map of El Paso.  

The entirety of Texas State Highway Loop 375 was designated in 1963 as part of the long term El Paso Freeway plan.  The segment of Texas State Highway Loop 375 from US Route 54 bypassing downtown El Paso was planned to cross the Franklin Mountains via Fusselman Canyon and Smugglers Pass.  The segment of Texas State Highway Loop 375 over the Franklin Mountains was completed during 1970 and is known as "Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive." 

Construction of Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive involved the largest land excavation undertaken by the Texas Highway Department to that point.  The namesake for the segment of highway is notable local El Paso County politician Woodrow Wilson Bean.  Woodrow Bean had served as the El Paso County Judge and was a figurehead behind the push for numerous public works projects around the city of El Paso.  

Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive can be seen on the 1983 United States Geological Survey Map of El Paso as a component of Texas State Highway Loop 375.  Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive is shown connecting from Texas State Route 20 (former US Route 80) east over the Franklin Mountains to US Route 54 at Dyer Street (now US Route 54 Business).  Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive is shown connecting to Interstate 10 (then also US Route 80, US Route 85 and US Route 180) east of Texas State Highway 20. 

During 2014 Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive was fully converted to four-lane expressway standards west from Franklin Mountains State Park to Interstate 10.  The project included frontage roads and two flyover ramps linking to Interstate 10. 

Part 2; a photo tour of Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive

From US Route 54 on the Patriots Freeway traffic can be access westbound Texas State Highway Loop 375/Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive at Exit 29.  Traffic departing US Route 54 is required to use Gateway Boulevard to reach Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive.  

Traffic on Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive west of US Route 54 is advised they are entering Castner Range National Monument.  Traffic is advised of 8% grades along the highway ahead.  

Castner Range National Monument was established on March 21, 2023, by President Joe Biden.  Presently oversight of the National Monument is administered by the United States Army.  The Castner Range was in use as a munitions test range in the Franklin Mountains circa 1926-1966.  The numerous "Danger, unexploded ordinance" signs along Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive are a reference to the testing days of the Castner Range.  

Westbound Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive passes an access road to the National Border Patrol Museum and El Paso Museum of Archaeology.

Westbound Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive climbs into the Franklin Mountains through Fusselman Canyon.  Traffic is notified of a historical plaque (seen in Part 1 above) which can be accessed by both highway travel directions.  

The transition point where the Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive departs Castner Range National Monument and enters Franklin Mountain State Park has recently been fully signed.  

Westbound Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive crosses the 5,280-foot-high Smugglers Pass and begins the 8% grade descent towards Interstate 10.  

At the beginning of the descent towards Interstate 10 traffic can access the West Franklin Mountains Vista (photo by Adam Prince during June 2023).  

Westbound Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive intersects the access road to the Tom Mays unit of Franklin Mountains State Park.  

Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive becomes a freeway upon entering the city of El Paso.  Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive accesses Paseo Del Norte Road and Plexxar Drive at Exit 12.  

Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive Exit 11B accesses Resler Drive and Northwestern Drive.  

Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive westbound ends at Interstate 10 (also US Route 85 and US Route 180).  Traffic transitioning to eastbound Interstate 10 utilizes a flyover ramp whereas Interstate 10 westbound traffic must use North Desert Boulevard.  Traffic continuing west beyond the end of Woodrow Bean Transmountain Drive transitions onto Texas State Highway Spur 16.  


Popular posts from this blog

Paper Highways: The Unbuilt New Orleans Bypass (Proposed I-410)

  There are many examples around the United States of proposed freeway corridors in urban areas that never saw the light of day for one reason or another. They all fall somewhere in between the little-known and the infamous and from the mundane to the spectacular. One of the more obscure and interesting examples of such a project is the short-lived idea to construct a southern beltway for the New Orleans metropolitan area in the 1960s and 70s. Greater New Orleans and its surrounding area grew rapidly in the years after World War II, as suburban sprawl encroached on the historically rural downriver parishes around the city. In response to the development of the region’s Westbank and the emergence of communities in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist Parishes as viable suburban communities during this period, regional planners began to consider concepts for new infrastructure projects to serve this growing population.  The idea for a circular freeway around the southern perimeter of t

Hernando de Soto Bridge (Memphis, TN)

The newest of the bridges that span the lower Mississippi River at Memphis, the Hernando de Soto Bridge was completed in 1973 and carries Interstate 40 between downtown Memphis and West Memphis, AR. The bridge’s signature M-shaped superstructure makes it an instantly recognizable landmark in the city and one of the most visually unique bridges on the Mississippi River. As early as 1953, Memphis city planners recommended the construction of a second highway bridge across the Mississippi River to connect the city with West Memphis, AR. The Memphis & Arkansas Bridge had been completed only four years earlier a couple miles downriver from downtown, however it was expected that long-term growth in the metro area would warrant the construction of an additional bridge, the fourth crossing of the Mississippi River to be built at Memphis, in the not-too-distant future. Unlike the previous three Mississippi River bridges to be built the city, the location chosen for this bridge was about two

Memphis & Arkansas Bridge (Memphis, TN)

  Like the expansion of the railroads the previous century, the modernization of the country’s highway infrastructure in the early and mid 20th Century required the construction of new landmark bridges along the lower Mississippi River (and nation-wide for that matter) that would facilitate the expected growth in overall traffic demand in ensuing decades. While this new movement had been anticipated to some extent in the Memphis area with the design of the Harahan Bridge, neither it nor its neighbor the older Frisco Bridge were capable of accommodating the sharp rise in the popularity and demand of the automobile as a mode of cross-river transportation during the Great Depression. As was the case 30 years prior, the solution in the 1940s was to construct a new bridge in the same general location as its predecessors, only this time the bridge would be the first built exclusively for vehicle traffic. This bridge, the Memphis & Arkansas Bridge, was completed in 1949 and was the third