By JUDY SHERIDAN | Lone Star News Group
WEATHERFORD – A ribbon-cutting on a bright, beautiful Tuesday morning — attended by more than 135 people — marked the near-finish of the Ric Williamson Memorial Highway, the centerpiece and largest project of the $80 million Parker County Transportation Bond approved by voters in November of 2008.
The mood was jubilant as local and state officials gathered to celebrate under a white tent erected near the new interchange with Interstate Highway 20, the fifth and final phase of the approximately $40 million RWMH project, which got underway in April of 2011.
The event wrapped up in style — with Parker County Judge Mark Riley, Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler and county commissioners driving across the new bridge in antique and classic cars, escorting members of Williamson’s family.
A 5.6-mile partial loop around Weatherford’s west side, the RWMH will connect I-20 to FM Road 51, north of the city, and divert truck traffic from Weatherford’s downtown area, relieving traffic congestion and improving air quality.
For people traveling east from Mineral Wells, it means new access to the interstate without having to use South Bowie Drive or going through Weatherford.
Even as officials celebrated the completion of the new roadway, crews from Ed Bell Construction were hard at work on the interchange, which should be done in a couple weeks, according to Chris Bosco, of Freese and Nichols.
Striping of the roadway, signage and curing of the concrete railing, as well as completion of the barrier railings along the entrance and exit ramps, are the final items that remain, county officials said.
Riley said weather issues were at fault for the delay.
“There’s a little glitch in our giddy up,” he told the crowd. “Originally, everything was going to be where the bridge would be open sometime this afternoon: thankfully we’ve had rain — and some freezing temperatures — so we’re going to be a few more days before the bridge is open to the public.”