By JUDY SHERIDAN
A brief ceremony to mark the opening of the second phase of the much anticipated Ric Williamson Memorial Highway — long known as the Western Loop — drew a small crowd of county and city officials, business leaders, TxDOT representatives and others to the loop’s intersection with U.S. Highway 180 on a bright and sunny Wednesday afternoon.
Mary Ann Williamson and her daughter, Melissa Meyer, cut the ribbon to officially open the road. Speakers included Williamson, Weatherford City Manager Jerry Blaisdell and Judge Mark Riley.
“I’m honored to be included with the second phase, just as I was with the first,” Williamson said, noting the completion of the highway’s initial phase — from Highway 51 North to FM 920 — in January of 2012. “I’m very proud and so appreciative of the city and the county and their joint effort getting this off the ground so far.”
Blaisdell gave the county credit for making the road a reality.
“The county stepped up, saw the need and made it happen,” he said. “We owe them a debt of gratitude.”
Riley remembered the late Ric Williamson, saying he “had what it took to stand up and do what is right,” regardless of whether an idea was popular. He thanked all the county’s partners, naming Maribel Chavez, district engineer for the Fort Worth District of TxDOT.
“In 14 or 15 months, we’ll be standing at I-20 opening up that bridge,” he said, referencing the end point of the 5.2-mile $40 million project. “We’re at the half-way point today ... and they told us we couldn’t do it in five years.”
Ric Williamson, of Weatherford, was a former chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission and secured the 2004 TxDOT feasibility evaluation that led to the road’s construction.
He was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984, serving from 1985 to 1999.