Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Johnson County

October 31, 2010

Chisholm Trail targeted for 2013

The expansion of Texas 121 from Fort Worth to Cleburne should be open to drivers by mid 2013, North Texas Tollway Authority Director of Project Delivery Elizabeth Mow said Wednesday.

Although that date remains contingent on several factors such as environmental impact studies and funding agreements with the Texas Department of Transportation, the majority of hurdles facing the long-planned project have been cleared, Mow said.

She and other NTTA officials hosted a town hall meeting at the Cleburne Conference Center to update residents on the project’s status.

Current and past area officials attended, along with several dozen residents. Attendees offered no comments or questions during the Q&A following Mow’s presentation, but did peruse maps of the proposed road and visited with NTTA officials before the meeting began.

Proposals to extend Texas 121 to Cleburne stretch back to the 1970s. It’s been a project of starts and stops for decades, a project that, less than a year ago, appeared in danger of being delayed once again.

“We’ve worked hard for many, many years for this,” County Judge Roger Harmon said. “This is a historic and great night.”

State Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, agreed.

“It’s so exciting to see this project finally getting off the ground and moving forward,” Orr said. “And it’s a credit to a lot of people who came before us that worked toward this. I also thank NTTA for putting this open house on. It’s important that we get input from our citizens. This is going to make an economic impact on Johnson County and Cleburne in particular like we’ve never seen.”

Orr and Harmon credited cooperation between numerous local, state and federal officials for the project’s success. As did Michelle Dominguez, senior legislative assistant for U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco.

“This is the type of project Chet loves to work on,” Dominguez said. “A partnership between localities, state and federal government. Texas 121 remains Chet’s No. 1 transportation project in the district.”

The 28-mile extension will be named Chisholm Trail Parkway in Johnson County and Southwest Parkway in Tarrant County. The road will stretch from downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne. The cost is estimated at $1.4 billion.

“It’s exciting,” Mow said. “We’ve not developed a project of this magnitude ever.”

The road will be an all electronic controlled toll way, Mow said. Instead of stopping to pay at tollbooths, drivers will use their toll tags or, if they don’t have one, receive a toll bill in the mail based on their license plate being photographed when the enter or exit the road.

Work on interchanges in Cleburne and Fort Worth began earlier this year. Stimulus funding awarded last year funded both projects. Work on parts of the road in Tarrant County is under way, Mow said, with Johnson County construction work expected to begin early in the second quarter of 2011.

In a separate, but related project, construction is under way to widen the section of U.S. 67 passing through Cleburne to improve access and safety on the road.

Texas 121 will be a six-lane divided highway from downtown Fort Worth to Altamesa Boulevard and four lanes from Altamesa Boulevard to Farm-to-Market Road 1187.

From FM 1187 to U.S. 67 the road will consist of two lanes divided, Mow said. That portion will include occasional passing lane segments, she said. Lanes could be added to the Johnson County portion in the future, Mow said, should usage and revenues justify such expansion.

NTTA’s standard toll rate totals 14.5 cents per mile, Mow said, but added that rates for specific segments of the road remain to be determined.

Mow encouraged residents to visit www.ntta.org for project updates and information on construction areas and road closures in the coming years.

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