It's been almost two years since TxDOT broke ground to construct Loop 49 and there's been some confusion whether or not the entire stretch is finally open. CBS 19's Amanda Roberson has the answers.
Orange barrels and "Road Closed" signs mean no cars on the final stretch of Loop 49 between Highway 31 and Interstate 20. Two weeks there was a grand opening for the final section. Even though it didn't actually open, that was an official passing control from TxDOT to the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority, or NET RMA. That confused a lot of East Texas drivers ready to take a spin on the new road.
"Save me some time, I'm ready!" Susan Rea works at ABC Pre-School in Tyler, but lives in Winnsboro. She makes the 50 mile drive five days a week and said she's been anxious for the next phase of loop 49 to open. "I went down there last week, it wasn't open. I was just waiting but nothing yet."
Even though time is money on the toll road, Rea said it will be worth it every cent. "Going through, around the loop, and through all those red lights and speed changes and everything, it's going to make a big difference in my time. I'm sure of it."
"Section 3B, which is what we had the grand opening for about a week ago will be opened, shooting for March 29," explained NET RMA Vice Chairman Gary Halbrooks.
He said road construction is complete, and crews are now working on punch-list items. "Just taking care of the details: doing the striping, cleaning up the shoulder, planting grass on the right away, just getting everything ready to go."
Halbrooks said Texas toll tags work with most toll facilities across the state, so no matter which tag you buy, it will work on the final addition to make Loop 49 a reality.
"They're getting the toll gantries which is what you drive under that will tick when there's a transaction," Halbrooks added.
"I already have my toll tag, I've got it on my car. I'm ready to go. We just need the road open so we can go," Rea explained. And said she's counting the days to March 29. "I hope so. That's what they say. I'm checking every day!"
The "outer loop" project has been a long time coming. Original documentation shows plans for this road were first drafted in the 1970's.
The next phase of Loop 49 will be called the 'East Texas Hour Glass'. It will run from where the toll road ends now at Highway 110 South and end north of Longview. NET RMA just received $1.5 million from the state for a planning project, which means that phase is still a long ways down the road.
To monitor developments on Loop 49 and see when the road opens online, click here.