Loop 49 Cutting Path To Future

Loop 49. It's been in the planning for four decades. One day it may become one of the most traveled roads in East Texas. But, today, it's little more than a dirt path through the woods.

Construction on Phase 1 of Loop 49 started in August. The road between Highway 155 and Highway 69 south of Tyler is expected to be completed by December 2005.

After so many years of planning, the highway is beginning to take shape. County Road 178 has been closed because of the Loop 49 construction. This week, crews have been drilling out support beams to hold the weight of a new bridge which will run over the highway. Workers have had to move 100,000 cubic yards of dirt just to create this intersection. But, for some of the men behind the construction, it's almost like child play.

When Steven Hall was a little boy, he used to play with little trucks in the dirt. "Sure! Dump trucks and dozers and all the associated dirt piles and moving the dirt piles from one place to the other." Now that he's all grown up, he's still moving dirt. Just more of it. "The cuts and fills. That's where we've got a big hill that's awfully high, we've got a low area that's very low. We cut the hills off and put the fill in the low areas."

Hall is the TXDOT Area Engineer in charge of creating Loop 49 Phase 1. Now that the dirt has been moved, Steven says it's easier to see where the future is heading. "I've driven the roads, the county roads. It was just really hard to visualize what was going to be out here. There were survey stakes through the woods and so forth. I've driven the county roads numerous times but it was just really hard to picture."

"It's very rewarding that I am part of it. Not every day that you get to work on this part of the project. It was about 22 million dollars for this very small section, this five mile section here. It's very neat and I hope I get to stick around long enough for this to be completed."

Phase 2 will run from Highway 69 south to Paluxy. That contract will go out for bid in March. Smith County and the City of Tyler put up $1.6 million dollars for Phase 1 construction. Smith County, Tyler, and the City of Whitehouse have committed additional funds for Phase 2.