It was a time for celebration and the remembrance of a loved one as many turned out for the ribbon cutting for the final phase of the western loop of Ric Williamson Memorial Highway (RWMH).
“This was a community project; judging by the turnout I think that proves that, and we’re excited,” Parker County Judge Mark Riley said of the more than 135 that attended.
Residents will soon have access from FM 51, north of Weatherford, to I-20 west of Weatherford on the RWMH, a project which was part of the Parker County Transportation Bond Program. Construction crews expect to be completely finished within two weeks, weather permitting.
Weatherford Mayor Dennis Hooks praised the project calling it “amazing.”
“For [Riley] to look at it every day, I know it seems like a long time,” Hooks said. “For us on the outside looking in, it’s just amazing.”
The ribbon cutting ceremony took place just north of the new I-20 bridge, to celebrate the completion of the final phase of the 5.6 mile roadway.
“Let me start by telling you you what you probably already know, you have a great leadership team here in Parker County,” Bob Pence, President and CEO of Freese and Nichols said. “Judge Riley, members of the commissioners court and all of the staff that worked on this, they know how to serve, and they kn ow how to lead.”
Pence said it had been a privilege at Freese and Nichols, since 2008, to have been part of the project.
“A lot has been done, and there’s still a lot to do,” Pence said.
“Take a look across the overpass and realize what this one link does. It connects us to an interstate Highway that will take you from West Texas through Weatherford all the way to Florida and South Carolina - that’s 1,535 miles that is more accessible to us now.”
The RWMH is the centerpiece of the $80 million Parker County Transportation Bond Program. Construction on the project began in April of 2011.
Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, said the new thoroughfare fit Williamson because it took thinking outside of the box to make it happen and that he had to shake things up a little to get them done and that this process made people a little angry.
“It’s fitting this be named after Ric,” King said. “He always thought outside of the box, he didn’t mind shaking things up when it needed it, particularly with the State; and didn’t mind, on occasion, making people a little angry.”
The county commissioners were complimented by Riley for their diligence in the effort.
“It takes a big team for a project like this and the Commissioner’s Court has been supportive all the way,” Riley said. “The way we accomplished so much in such little time and they didn’t ‘nit-pick’ everything every time Freese and Nichols came to court.”
He said that no one was jockeying for anything - it was “get this project done.”
“I appreciate that because it’s not always that way,” Riley said.
Mary Ann Williamson finished by saying that this was an “outstanding example of a multi-jurisdictional solution to a transportation problem.”
“I think our community has set an outstanding example for the rest of the state to follow,” Williamson said.
Through money saved from the 2008 bond program, Parker County is continuing to move forward with the next phase of the loop, that being the Eastern Loop around Weatherford, with plans to possibly let the bid on its Interchange with I-20 in 2015.
When completed, the Eastern Loop will tie in to the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway at FM 51 north of Weatherford. Riley said he is working to continue to bring transportation dollars to Parker County.
Parker County added the Eastern Loop to its Transportation Bond Program in April of 2012 with the development of a conceptual design plan and a plan to move forward on the required studies that come with projects that tie into U.S. Interstates.
For more information on the Parker County Transportation Bond program, visitwww.parkercountytransportationbond.com.