• NET RMA Opening Another Section of Future Connector to I-69 Route
March 3, 2013
Road hands from around Northeast Texas gathered March 2nd to celebrate the completion of a major milestone in the development of Toll 49 -- a new highway that will eventually be a connector to the Interstate 69 System in Texas.
By late March a 10.2-mile section connecting to Interstate 20 in western Smith County will be open to traffic, allowing motorists safer, faster access to points around the south side of Tyler. Tolls from the project will eventually be used to extend the connector to the northeast around Longview and then east to connect with US 59/Future I-69 on the north side of Marshall in Harrison County. The long-range plan calls for Toll 49 to cover more the 100 miles. A total of 26 miles of the highway have been completed so far.
The celebration was held near the new highway's interchange with Interstate 20. Federal, state and local officials took the opportunity to recognize the decades of effort by local community leaders in the region.
The project is being built in a cooperative effort between local counties, the Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority (NET RMA) and the Texas Department of Transportation. Funding has come from a variety of sources including federal stimulus funds, a State Infrastructure Bank loan and a Toll Equity loan from TxDOT.
The first segment was opened to traffic in 2008 when Jeff Austin III was chairman of the NET RMA. He is now a member of the Texas Transportation Commission. He noted that completion of the link to I-20 will reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and provide better access to Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.
Linda Thomas, current chair of the RMA, said the highway will be important driver of new economic development for the region. "You ain't seen nothing yet," she said.
State Senator Kevin Eltife helped push for the Toll 49 project when he was mayor of Tyler and praised local officials for their spirit of cooperation. "These people put blood, sweat and tears into this project," he said.
State Rep. Larry Phillips, chairman of the Texas House Transportation Committee, called the Toll 49 expansion a game-changer for the community. He emphasized the improved safety provided compared to existing local roads not built to handle heavy traffic.
Congressman Louie Gohmert, whose District 1 includes all but a small portion of the proposed Toll 49 plan, said he was grateful to past generations who had the vision that is now being carried out by the partners in the project.
Toll 49 Segment 1 was the first total Electronic Toll Collection roadway in Texas when it opened in 2006. Motorists are able to use a TxTag or pay by mail. This system has now been adopted by the North Texas Tollway Authority (DFW) and for portions of the toll system in Central Texas.
The Transportation Commission voted in February to transfer control of Toll 49 to the RMA.
The regional mobility authority is one of eight in the state. The authorities are political subdivisions formed by one or more counties to finance, acquire, design, construct, operate and expand transportation projects. These projects may be tolled or non-tolled. RMAs have no taxing authority.