A total of 31 monthly calendar pages have been pulled since the City of Weatherford reached an agreement for $52 million in transportation funding.
Since November 2005, much has been written and said about how the changes will improve the traffic flow in town, how new retail corridors will be easier to access and how upgraded infrastructure will improve many aspects of life in Weatherford.
Impatient motorists and residents want to know when the new roads will be built.
Though no construction has taken place, necessary background work has been progressing on several local fronts.
Funding for the project comes from a unique “pass-through” tolling plan from TxDOT. Under the plan, the city borrows the money, then is paid back by the state department of transportation at a rate of about $5.2 million dollars per year for 10 years.
The state department of transportation is funded through federal dollars, which, by extension, means the city and the Federal Highway Administration are partners in the venture.
“When you are dealing with the federal government, there is a process,” said Terry Hughes, the city’s director of community planning.
He said one time-consuming aspect of the process is environmental impact studies that must be completed for the project.
“Everyone thinks environmental issues involve air quality or something like that,” Hughes said. “A lot of times, it’s socioeconomic issues. In this case, any group which might be affected has to sign off on our project. The Corps of Engineers gets to look at it, Native American groups get to look at it. But we’re very close to having it taken care of. It’s not really a holdup, it’s just part of the process.”
According to City Manager Jennifer Fadden, property and right-of-way acquisition has taken time recently.
One of the first portions of the project is the construction of BB Fielder Road from FM 1884 east to State Hwy. 171, then north to I-20.
Fadden reports while the city is closing on some property and has reached agreements on others, it has been unsuccessful in buying the necessary real estate to build BB Fielder and is planning to move forward with city council-authorized condemnation proceedings.
“Once we get that taken care of,” she said, “we can bid the projects.”
Fadden estimates the bid process will take about 60 days, followed by another 30 days before construction begins.
“It’ll be fall before we actually see any dirt turning,” she said.
Fadden said many of the most visible parts of the project will begin to take shape about that same time.
“Probably about the same time we’ll begin working on South Main, south of the Interstate,” she said. “And soon after that, we’ll start on the north frontage roads, then the south frontage roads and the bridge.”
Many of the changes in Weatherford’s traffic flow are targeted to the southern portion of town near Interstate 20 and a burgeoning retail section.
“We have to stage those so traffic has a place to go,” Fadden said.
The plan calls for new frontage roads from State Hwy. 171 to FM 2552 and from South Bowie to FM 1884.
In addition, SH 171 is to be widened south of I-20 to Causbie Road and north of I-20 to FM 1884.
Tin Top Road, from FM 1884 to I-20 is to be widened as well. Adams Drive is to be stretched to Texas Drive and Texas Drive is to be extended to the Interstate.
Other projects under the city’s $52 million umbrella include the realignment of Spring Street, the widening of the Franklin Street bridge, and the extension of South Denton to FM 2552.
“We have completed the design of the Franklin Street Bridge,” Fadden said, adding designs are also finished for the Spring Street realignment.
Fadden admits current economic conditions have probably raised the cost of the project.
“We certainly anticipate the cost to be above and beyond what we estimated almost three years ago,” she said. “But we have not bid the first project yet, so we’re not sure.”
She said higher costs on construction materials have caused fewer projects statewide to be green lighted. The hope is those two conditions might even out cost increases.
Fadden said the project should be completed in 2011.
“We’ll have a big, ol’ party as soon as it’s finished,” she said.