Loop 49 project to create more than just a road

By Taylor Hemness - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved the funds for the next piece of the Loop 49 toll road, and that move looks to be just the tip of the iceberg.

An outer loop around Tyler has been in the works for decades, and when construction began in 2002, officials knew it would be a pay-as-they-go project.

"We never anticipated that we would get a big bucket of money, that we could go out and build Loop 49," said Randy Hopmann, a TxDot District Engineer. "We knew we were going to have to build it in phases."

The next phase, known as Segment 3A, will extend Loop 49 from Highway 155 northwest to Highway 31. In addition to the $38,000,000 from the economic stimulus, the construction will be funded by almost $14,000,000 in congressional earmarks, $1,000,000 from Tyler and Smith County, and $4,700,000 from the Tyler Metropolitan Planning Organization's stimulus funds.

This new step also clears the way for the next, much bigger step.

"We'll be able, as the RMA, to issue bonds to complete this section for construction dollars to complete from 31 up to Interstate 20," said Hopmann.

That next step, will be funded by the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority, and connect Highway 69 to I-20, but the biggest benefit East Texans will see over the next two years while the road is constructed is in the form of something that's scarce right now - jobs.

"There's a lot that goes into it - engineering, plans, right of way, dirt work," explained Hopmann. "Each construction dollar for transportation infrastructure goes a long way in creating jobs, and having a multiplying economic affect in our region."

Loop 49 could mean changes to other forms of transportation as well, as TxDot and the RMA are even looking at extending rail service off of Highway 31 to the Tyler Airport.

Now, to drive on the loop without getting a bill in the mail, you have to have a Tx-Tag for your car. Those can be purchased locally, and used in other cities like Dallas, Houston, and Austin. For more information on how they work, click here.