Football great Earl Campbell and a host of Tyler officials came together Thursday to cut the ribbon on a new $16.4 million roadway named in his honor.
Nicknamed “The Tyler Rose,” Campbell arrived at the occasion in a shiny red classic truck, the first in a procession of carefully restored rides representing the Custom Truckers.
Campbell said the new parkway is so well done, motorists might feel tempted to drive a little faster than the posted speed, but he urged them to reconsider.
“Earl is always somewhere looking,” he teased.
The new four-lane Earl Campbell Parkway connects Texas Highway 155 to West Loop 323 and features two bike lanes, drought tolerant landscaping, raised landscaped medians and sidewalks.
The completed project consists of about 86,000 square yards of pavement, enough to cover about 13 football fields; plus more than nine miles of curbs and 11 miles of striping, City Engineer Carter Delleney said.
Within the 9,400 linear feet of roadway there are more than 840 roses, a nod to Tyler's reputation as the Rose Capital of America.
There also are more than 230 new trees, a move that supports Mayor Barbara Bass' Tree Tyler initiative of planting 5,000 trees within five years.
Adams Engineering designed the project with support from landscape architect Sarai R. Akin; Longview Bridge and Road carried out the work.
The mayor said the city was grateful Campbell was willing to lend his name to the new roadway.
“Earl Campbell exemplifies the best of who we are,” she said. “He puts God first. We have this parkway named in honor of a special person, born and raised in Tyler, Texas.”
District 2 Tyler City Councilman Darryl Bowdre said the new street represents the opportunities that can arise when people work together for a common purpose.
“This is what we're about,” he said.
Former District 2 Councilman Donald Sanders was credited with helping highlight the need for improved access in the area.
Funding for the new roadway came from half-cent sales tax revenue, records show.
“Today, as we stand here, this project has been paid for,” said Tyler City Councilman Ralph Caraway, who chairs the One-Half Cent Sales Tax Corp. Inc. board. “There's not anything owed on it.”
Council members Martin Heines, Sam Mezayek and Mark Whatley also attended the ceremony.
Campbell, one of 11 children, lost his father when he was a boy.
With the support of family and friends, he went on to become a standout player at John Tyler High School before he was recruited by the University of Texas At Austin and secured the distinction of being the school's first player to receive the Heisman Trophy.
He played for the Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints before retiring in 1986.
Campbell, a father of two, is happily married to his childhood sweetheart, Ruena Smith Campbell.
Supporters said they appreciate the city naming the road after their special guy.
“It's wonderful,” Campbell's aunt Laura McGregor, 88, said. “It's very beautiful.”
Ailene Robinson, 101, sporting a bright red Earl Campbell t-shirt and ballcap, said Campbell was a good boy raised by good people.
“He let God have the first place in his life,” she said. “That's what his mother always told him.”
For Barbara Chase, who lives nearby, the new parkway not only honors a good man and role model, it addresses a much broader mission: easing traffic congestion.
“I'm so happy,” she said. “This will cut down on traffic coming down Second Street.”