Loop 49 Segment 5 To Open Thursday
By ADAM RUSSELL
Striping crews and sweepers were making the final preparations Monday for a new segment of Toll 49 to open later this week.
The Texas Department of Transportation announced it will open Segment 5 of Toll 49 to traffic Thursday afternoon in time for the evening rush.
As part of the opening, new traffic signals will be activated at Toll 49 and Texas Highway 110 north of Whitehouse and at Farm-to-Market Road 2964 (Rhone's Quarter).
The two-mile segment, along with Segment 1 and 2, which have been in operation, will connect Texas Highway 155 to Texas 110. Segment 3A, which runs north connecting Texas 155 to Texas Highway 31, is under construction and expected to be open by the end of October. Together, the projects, including Segment 3A, will stretch more than 16 miles and connect Chandler to Whitehouse.
TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said each segment that opens means the project is another step closer to reaching its major connection -- Interstate 20.
"It's an exciting time for us, and for East Texas," TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz said. "We're finally starting to realize the potential this project promised when we opened the first segment.
Travel on Segment 5 will be free until electronic toll collection begins in August, he said.
TxDOT commissioner Jeff Austin, III said Tyler, Whitehouse and Smith County laid the groundwork by making early investments that will soon pay off. After the connection to I-20, Austin expects increased traffic will lead to the conversation about expanding from two lanes to four lanes.
Opening Segment 5 "is another step to solve congestion problems and improve regional mobility," he said. "I am looking forward to people asking, 'When can we expand it?'"
Each section added will spur economic growth and move more people around the region safely, Austin said.
Mike Battle, a project contractor coordinator, said Segment 3B, which will conclude the western portion of the toll road and connect it to I-20, is on schedule and expected to be finished in spring 2013.