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Bill would name portion of Texas 360 after late Senator Chris Harris

A portion of Texas 360 is under construction near East Broad Street in Mansfield, as shown in October. State elected leaders have proposed naming the new stretch of road Chris Harris Memorial Highway.
A portion of Texas 360 is under construction near East Broad Street in Mansfield, as shown in October. State elected leaders have proposed naming the new stretch of road Chris Harris Memorial Highway. Star-Telegram

It looks like a new stretch of Texas 360 may not be named Texas Ranger Tollway after all.

Instead, the road currently under construction between Arlington and Mansfield may be named after the late state Sen. Chris Harris.

In October, the North Texas Tollway Authority considered naming the road Texas Ranger Tollway. Agency board member Mojy Haddad of Arlington said the name would have been a tribute to the state’s legendary law enforcement unit, not the baseball club that plays just west of the highway. The proposal came as the election campaign was underway in Arlington over using tax money to pay for a new $1 billion ballpark.

The tollway authority eventually postponed action on the renaming issue.

In the meantime, support has grown for naming the road in honor of Harris, who represented the area for more than a quarter-century and had a reputation as a strong advocate for roads and other mobility projects.

$330 million Cost of building new 10-mile stretch of Texas 360

Harris, who was a law partner of Mansfield Mayor David Cook, died in December 2015.

State leaders chime in

A bill filed by State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, calls for naming a portion of Texas 360 the Chris Harris Memorial Highway. The portion of the road stretched for roughly 10 miles, from West Camp Wisdom Road/East Sublett Road in Tarrant County to U.S. 287 in Ellis County.

Hancock’s bill has had its first reading and been assigned to a committee, although it’s not yet known when lawmakers will again take up the issue.

The fledgling area where Arlington, Grand Prairie and Mansfield come together just northwest of Midlothian is far south of Arlington’s entertainment district, where the Rangers play baseball at Globe Life Park.

The extension of Texas 360 is considered vital to continued population and job growth in Arlington, Mansfield and Grand Prairie.

Hancock’s bill doesn’t address whether it’s appropriate to call the road a highway, even though it is scheduled to become part of the region’s tollway network once it opens.

The tollway authority typically likes to call a road under its control a “tollway.” Exceptions include the President George Bush Turnpike in Dallas and Collin counties, and Chisholm Trail Parkway in southwest Fort Worth and Cleburne.

The Texas Department of Transportation is building the $330 million project. Once the work is complete, the roadway will be turned over to the tollway authority for 35 years of maintenance and management.

The state transportation department typically doesn’t name its roads, although cities may assign names to state highways within their boundaries.

Other names considered

The tollway authority, which is based in Plano but manages toll roads throughout the Metroplex, hasn’t publicly discussed whether to continue pursuing its options for naming the road Texas Ranger Tollway.

The authority also considered at least one other name: Johnson Station Tollway, in honor of the 1840s settlement that served as a ranger station and trading post in what is today south Arlington.

But tollway board members haven’t addressed the naming issue since it first came up in October, spokesman Michael Rey said.

“It’s not on the agenda and the board has not taken any action, so nothing new to report on choices,” Rey said in an email.

At a Regional Transportation Council meeting on Thursday, some members including Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley spoke in favor of naming the road after Harris.

But Micheal Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, cautioned that it would be better to give the state Legislature a chance to make its decision.

“It’s above our pay grade at this particular point,” Morris said.

However, Morris did add that local entities such as county commissions and city councils are free to pass whatever resolutions they wish expressing support for a road name.

Call for diversity

Carrollton Mayor Matthew Marchant made a parting observation as the RTC wrapped up its discussion of the issue Thursday in Arlington. Marchant encouraged his colleagues to consider a diverse selection of local leaders when deciding what to name a road.

“I love Senator Harris and this is appropriate, but I think we should all think of naming a highway from a broader collection of folks,” Marchant said. “I can’t think of a highway not named after a white male.”

The Texas 360 project, which includes construction of two toll lanes in each direction, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Frontage roads will remain toll-free.

Currently, about 52,000 vehicles per day cram into the Texas 360 corridor, using only the frontage roads while workers build the main lanes in the vast, grassy median. According to one estimate, up to 174,000 vehicles per day could use the corridor by 2030.

This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796, @gdickson