Construction on phase one of the western loop is expected to start later this year.
A bypass project to route through traffic away from the congested Weatherford downtown streets has been discussed for more than a decade, and in about five years, the first cars are expected to travel down the lanes of the new thoroughfare.
“A bypass of some kind has been talked about as long as I’ve been here,” said Terry Hughes, director of transportation and public works for the City of Weatherford. He started working for the city in 1990.
Around 2000, the city started developing a plan of how to develop a loop. The Texas Department of Transportation conducted a study in 2004 on the feasibility of a loop and found an alignment that would work to improve traffic flow. But at a price tag of $181 million for a four-lane freeway in a 400-foot wide corridor, neither the state, city nor county could foot the bill. In 2007, the city developed a scaled down version of the loop to cut costs.
To acquire the land needed to access the right-of-way for the loop, the city adopted an annexation plan in May 2006 that would have added 1,840 acres to the incorporated areas of the city. In 2009, when the city went to take action on the annexation, residents stepped up to voice their opposition and ultimately the county took over the project.
Weatherford and Parker County entered an agreement in June 2009, which includes the county donating the western loop to Weatherford, in return, the city not proceed with their annexation plan. The county had already received approval from voters in the November 2008 bond election for $80 million for transportation projects including the loop.
The loop will link drivers from Interstate 20 on the west side of Weatherford up to FM 51 north of Weatherford.
“If we can get the traffic that’s coming in from the west, north and south — that is to a great degree pass-through traffic — to use that, it would make our roads more user friendly for people who are shopping [in town],” Hughes said.
According to TxDOT, about half of traffic through downtown Weatherford is pass-through traffic with destinations other than locations in the city.
At this point, the city had no direct dealing with the western loop other than interaction with the county on the purchase of land that the Weatherford Economic Development Authority owns. Once the road is completed, it will be annexed into the city, but only the road, Hughes said.
The county began the design process of the loop in April 2009, and in a recent update on the project stated the property acquisition process began this year and will continue through the next year.
The first section of the loop to go under construction is from FM 51 on the north side of Weatherford south to the FM 920 intersection.
“The complete northwest quadrant of the traffic loop around Weatherford will deliver a profound, beneficial impact on congestion within the city, opportunities for commercial and retail development and mobility in this region,” according to a county update.
At a recent meeting, WEDA Executive Director Dennis Clayton said he anticipates the industrial park on the northwest side of town to be sold out in five years once the western loop is established along with potential for new commercial growth.
An update to the county transportation bond is scheduled for a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Parker County Courthouse.
More information on the bond is available at www.parkercountytransportationbond.com.
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