By JUDY SHERIDAN
The kick-off point for the Eastern Loop around Weatherford — an interchange at I-20 and Center Point Road — took a big step forward last month when the North Central Texas Council of Governments included the project’s bridge and frontage roads in its Transportation Improvement Program.
“It provides us official access to funding to hopefully complete the interchange,” County Judge Mark Riley said. “To access state and federal money, a project has to be in the TIP.”
The $22 million project includes a bridge, entrance ramps and the completion of the eastbound service road from Center Point Road to Lake Shore Drive, Riley said, as well as the westbound access road from Center Point to Bankhead Highway on the intersection’s north side. The project’s final piece is building the eastbound access road from Love’s Travel Stop to Center Point.
“We’re looking at phasing it,” the judge said, cautioning that the plans are preliminary. “We would do the bridge for about $10 million and the eastbound service road from Center Point to Lake Shore for about $7 million. Engineers believe that’s the best way to phase it.”
When the Regional Transportation Council, where Riley serves as secretary, approves a TIP, it locks in federal and state funds for the project, Riley said, in this case $10 million for the first phase. The county, along with the cities of Weatherford and Hudson Oaks, will provide the $7 million local contribution.
“We have been working for some months on funding partnerships for the interchange with the Eastern Loop, a lot of meetings, a lot of hours,” Riley said in a recent meeting, announcing the project’s inclusion in the TIP, while noting the selective use of federal funds during the construction of the 2008 transportation bond projects.
“The federal funding we didn’t spend on our projects to date — with the work TxDOT did and all the things we’ve done — we’ve been able to move money around and reserve some of that money that can only be spent in certain places, anyway. It is now in the regional plan, so we’re able to proceed with what we authorize, what Freese and Nichols has been doing preliminary work on.