CLEBURNE - Traffic tie-ups and North Texas go hand and hand, and these days, so do toll roads.
The newest toll road is Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway, which extends from Fort Worth to Cleburne. The nearly 30-mile toll will cost $1.4 billion to build and should be complete by 2013.
The North Texas Tollway Authority gave the Southwest Parkway project the green light Wednesday, giving the City of Cleburne a reason to rejoice. For commuters willing to pay, it could cut their drive in half.
For Cleburne, the toll road will mean more than a shorter drive. It will also mean business and tax dollars that have been just out of reach, until now.
Five years ago, Jason Cech and his family visited Cleburne. They were trying to decide whether to buy the local Sears store. The seller told him something interesting news that made up his mind.
“He said this Chisholm Trail Parkway highway was coming from Fort Worth, and of course would be a great opportunity for Cleburne and for business,” he said.
Cleburne used to be a relatively short drive from Fort Worth.
“At one time, there were about four traffic lights from Cleburne to Burleson, and there were 28 last time I counted,” said Mayor Justin Hewlett.
Congested interstates can push a one-way trip to nearly an hour.
“For a lot of us who have hours that maybe aren't extended, by the time people fight the traffic and get home, we're closed,” Cech said.
But, by 2013, that will hopefully all change with the Southwest Parkway/Chisholm Trail Parkway. It will stretch from Interstate 30 just west of downtown Fort Worth all the way to Cleburne, shortening the drive to little more than 20 minutes. Hewlett predicts it will revitalize the downtown.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We just think this is really going to help Cleburne grow.”
Bobby De La Garza's Ford Dealership gets most of its customers from Johnson County right now. He said he can't wait for the toll road to open the door to Fort Worth.
“It's going to grow not only our business, but all businesses here in Cleburne,” he said.
To give you an idea of how long this project's been in the works, Hewlett's father remembers discussing the idea when he was on Cleburne's City Council in the 1970s.