The North Texas Tollway Authority is now formally committed to building the Southwest Parkway project from downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne. The 28-mile toll road is expected to be fully under construction by the end of the year or in early 2011 and open to traffic by late 2013.
The tollway board voted unanimously Wednesday morning to approve a project agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation to take over construction of the $1.8 billion project, and operate and maintain the road in perpetuity.
The tollway authority's acceptance of the project comes 48 years after Fort Worth officials originally dreamed up the concept of cutting a road through the southwestern quadrant of Tarrant County, much of which is rocky and undeveloped. Read more about that history here.
But Wednesday's action also is a sweet deal for Cleburne and the rest of Johnson County, which has about 150,000 residents and although it has pockets of neighborhoods that serve as Fort Worth suburbs is still mostly rural.
The toll road, known as Chisholm Trail in the Cleburne area, will not only serve to relieve traffic on Interstate 35W and Texas Farm Road 174, where motorists must endure 31 traffic signals to get to Fort Worth. It will lead to a renaissance of development, Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon told me during a break at today's tollway authority meeting.
"The whole county will be the big winner," Harmon said. "It’s going to change the whole outlook for the citizens of our county. Anytime you can cut a 40 minute drive to 20 minutes, you're going to have a change. It will pull the largest developers into our county. Railroads were the original catalyst for the Cleburne area. This will be the catalyst for the future."