Byron Farmstead

COURTESY/BILL WARREN

The historic Byron Farmstead that is within the Parker County East Loop project. 

The Parker County East Loop project is continuing to move forward and some of the phases have or will go out for bid to begin construction.

The East Loop was broken down into four phases. Phase 1, which runs from Interstate 20/Center Point Road north to Fort Worth Highway or U.S. 180, is operational now. Phase 2 runs from Fort Worth Highway northwest to Farm-to-Market Road 730 and includes running through the historic Byron Farmstead. Phase 3 and Phase 4 will run west from FM 730 to connect to FM 51/Ric Williamson Memorial Highway intersection.

“In Phase 4, we now have completed the right of way and so we’re getting that ready for bid and plan to advertise in October. We have Phase 3 beginning construction early November and then by that time we’ll have bids in for Phase 4, so you could look at Phase 4 beginning in December/January, the construction part. For Phase 3, we have a 14-month construction duration so Phase 3 and 4 are going to overlap,” Chris Bosco with Freese and Nichols engineer firm said. “Phase 2 is the one we’re working through with the Corps of Engineers and [Texas Historical Commission]. Currently, we’ve posted all the comments from that [public] meeting on the county transportation website, so the next step there is the Corps is going to host another meeting to discuss those comments and that’s looking like it will be late October, early November when that meeting will happen. Phase 2 will bid in February/March [2021], so you could say contractors start in late April and then that will also be about 12 to 14 months.”

Concerns have been expressed by the public about the East Loop being constructed through the 85.5-acre Byron Farmstead property, which was purchased by Charlie Byron and his wife, Ashley, in 1902. The cabin on the property was built by Will and Ina Kerby in 1893. The farmstead is rich in history and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A public meeting hosted by county and state officials took place on Feb. 6 where residents were asked to fill out comment cards with their ideas for mitigation and feedback on Phase 2. The comments and responses have now been published online.

“Putting this road so close to the historical structures has me concerned for the long-term effect on their structures. Vibrations from the road, noise vibrations and pollution are certainly going to affect the structural integrity of the log cabin and 1925 cottage, neither of which was built to withstand modern-day roadways,” according to resident Martha Fagley's comment. “This road is so close to both of them as well as the occupied residence, it is a travesty. Why was this the case? The road could very well be redesigned to go further east on his property rather than split it at the point you propose. There is rich Native American history in this area as well as the Byron history. Redesign the road to go further from the homes.”

The response to Fagley’s comment was that the alignment of the East Loop Phase 2 was designed to avoid and minimize impacts to the historic district.

“Realigning the roadway within the Byron Farmstead District to be completely east of all farmstead resources would place the roadway directly on between 840 linear feet of a tributary of Underwood Branch and result in multiple impacts to residential properties,” according to the response online. “The proposed roadway was aligned to avoid the stream while still avoiding the displacement of any farmstead resources.”

Patricia Byron Nielsen also asked for another route, but said if that does not happen, then a barrier wall would be most effective.

“There is often a good breeze and sometimes a strong wind from the south, which is where the east loop is to be located not far from the historic log cabin. There is also a bridge planned for that area. I expect fumes, trash, noise and possibly a fire to occur. If a wall was also built west of the loop from north to south, it would protect two houses on the property,” according to Byron Nielsen’s comment. “There are currently two rather sharp curves planned. They are a safety concern — especially with the bridge, which would ice over in winter. Homeless people like to shelter under bridges. If they so choose this bridge, it would not be long before they would discover the empty log cabin. A barrier wall would prevent that.”

According to the response to Byron Nielsen’s comment, it is not clear how a tall barrier wall would mitigate her identified effects of the roadway on the historic property.

“Such a wall could introduce adverse visual effects. The proposed curves in the roadway approaching the bridge meet the design standards and safety requirements for the project,” according to the response. “The proposed bridge will be located within the right-of-way (ROW) of the project. Any sheltering under the bridge structure or pedestrian activity outside of the ROW will be considered trespassing and is unlawful in accordance with state laws.”

Other comments included moving the roadway away from the proposed area, but officials continued to respond that it was designed to avoid and minimize impacts to the farmstead and surrounding areas.

At this time, a date has not been confirmed on the next public meeting.

Bosco said traffic signals will be constructed by the Texas Department of Transportation at the U.S. 180 intersection as well as the FM 730 intersection, which will also include turn lanes.

“If you remember in the bond projects, we were trying to get state money to help, so TxDOT’s paying for the construction of those two locations,” Bosco said. "TxDOT is paying for the construction and the county will actually manage the construction. The bids open on that on Sept. 24, so we’ll be bringing that before the court for award.”

For more information about the East Loop project, visit parkercountytransportation.com

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