A new segment of Toll 49 will be open next year, and the road’s governing body continues to plan further extensions of the road.
A 6.7-mile segment of road extending Toll 49 in the Lindale area is scheduled to open in early 2019, according to the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority.
The authority, also called NET RMA, is a nonprofit organization that oversees Toll 49, a highway that currently runs in a half-circle shape around the western side of Smith County.
The new segment of Toll 49 is called the Lindale Relief Route and runs north from the northernmost part of Toll 49, past Interstate 20 in Lindale, and ends at U.S. Highway 69.
Chris Miller, the executive director of NET RMA, said in an interview that the new portion of road was originally scheduled to open around August of this year, but the process got delayed when contractors found archaeological remains.
“The state of Texas requires us to follow (procedures related to archaeological remains), and that got taken care of and they’re back on track and working very aggressively to wrap it up,” Miller said.
Construction continues on an upgrade to the existing part of Toll 49, Miller said. The road is being widened by four feet to make room for a four-foot median in the middle of the highway.
The median is designed to improve traffic safety, Miller said. It will have rumble strips and reflectors on it to keep drivers from crossing into oncoming traffic, he said.
Going forward, Miller said NET RMA is looking at planning for a new 13.5-mile portion, currently known as Segment 6, which would run from the easternmost point of Toll 49 in the Whitehouse area, go east, then north to Highway 31, and ultimately to U.S. 271.
Miller said NET RMA’s board of directors, which includes officials from about a dozen counties in East Texas, is discussing how to fund Segment 6. He estimated the cost of the project would be about $200 million.
The board is planning to produce a report in the coming months on ways NET RMA can fund Segment 6. He said having a funding plan would be the first step before kicking off a seven-year process of environmental work, design, and then construction.
“If tomorrow we started segment 6 with the environmental (work), that’s a three-year project,” Miller said. “It’s two years after that to do the design, and then it’s two years after that to construct it, maybe more. So you’re looking at seven years, maybe eight.”
He said that long process for Segment 6 also pushes another project to extend Toll 49, called Segment 7, about 10 years into the future. Segment 7 would be an 11.8-mile portion of road that would run east-west, north of Longview.
The eventual goal is to extend Toll 49 far enough north and east that it reaches U.S. 69, which is planned someday to become an extension of Interstate 69, which runs to Houston.
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