Gene Harris, owner of Harris Nursery Wholesale and Garden Center on U.S. Highway 69 has seen the changes, both good and bad, that 44 years in business can bring.
Harris believes the negative impact will be insignificant.
“We have long-time customers from all over the area, even the Metroplex,” he said. “It may cut down on the drive-by business a little, but I don’t think it’s going to affect us much.”
Harris said he doesn’t think “transit people” looking for a quicker way around Tyler will have an adverse effect on sales.
Barham Fulmer, president of the Lindale Economic Development Corp., said he expects nothing but positives for Lindale businesses and residents once I-20 traffic begins using Toll 49. He said the businesses, mostly restaurants and fuel stops along the interstate, may see a decrease in traffic, but Lindale captures very little of the eastbound traffic exiting at U.S. 69.
But Fulmer thinks northbound traffic that bypasses Tyler will still use U.S. 69 as its route and that the toll connection will give the city’s industrial complex, which is about a quarter-mile east of the I-20-Toll 49 connection, and its business park north of the connection, an advantage in drawing employers.
Fulmer said Lindale has been looking forward to the connection and that the expectations are for it to be an engine for growth along the city’s I-20 and U.S. 69 corridor.
The connection is expected to give the nearby Target distribution center on I-20 the ability to bypass Tyler, Fulmer said. Target’s corporate representatives could not estimate of the number of trucks that will utilize the toll road per day, but Fulmer and another city official said company officials told them possibly 300 trucks would use the route each day.
“It will really open up things to the south,” Fulmer said. “Lots of truck traffic and people who want to get where they are going.”
Mullins said Texas and Smith County will continue to grow and that Toll 49 represents a travel option for travelers. Short-term losses will likely be mitigated by long-term growth in the region, he said.
“Even though people may change their entry habits in and out of Tyler over the years there will be increased activity,” he said.
Mullins said additional travel stops and buildup along I-20 east and west of U.S. 69 have not adversely affected businesses there and so he does not expect major losses for businesses along the corridor.
Fulmer said the impact of the next phase in the Toll 49 project, the Lindale by-pass, which will continue the existing toll road north to U.S. 69 north of the city, will likely create more traffic relief than cut into commerce.
“Once it opens up and there’s no construction it’s going to become a much more attractive location for people,” he said. “Traffic drives business and I think it’s going to be a heavily trafficked intersection.”