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US 79 loop dropped from TxDOT's 'to do soon' list

Money to be reimbursed to county for aquisitions; stimulus never factored into project

Many landowners were incensed after getting an aerial map view of proposed plans for the US 79 highway bypass in February 2008. But some in town think a loop is needed to relieve traffic. Many landowners were incensed after getting an aerial map view of proposed plans for the US 79 highway bypass in February 2008. But some in town think a loop is needed to relieve traffic. Surprising absolutely nobody, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) admitted last week it has dropped the Rockdale US 79 Loop from its list of "near future" projects.

TxDOT is reimbursing $200,000 to Milam County, part of an agreement the county had to eventually provide $512,000 as its share of the project.

County Judge Frank Summers said Thursday he had received formal word from TxDOT's Bob Appleton t he transpor tat ion department "will terminate the existing agreement" with Milam County and refund the money.

The proposed loop, which has been seriously discussed for more than a decade, has been in serious funding jeopardy for more than a year.

'Revenue hit' In August, 2008, Bryan Wood, then TxDOT Bryan district engineer, told The Reporter if the 2009 Texas Legislature did not fund the project, the department would consider shelving it.

"Revenues have taken a hit," Wood said. "Both at the state and federal level. We're not getting as much from the federal government as we had anticipated."

The Texas Legislature did not fund the project, even though there was some speculation the demise of the proposed Trans- Texas Corridor might free up some funding for the loop.

That didn't happen either.

In fact, it's been obvious for several years the loop was in serious funding trouble.

In 2006, TxDOT representatives appeared before county commissioners to float the idea of making the loop a toll-road.

Commissioners flatly rejected that idea.

No stimulus funds

In 2007 TxDOT representatives again appeared before commissioners, noting the department believed it had secured $73.6 million in funding for only two lanes of what was to have been a four-lane project.

Plans then became for the loop to be expanded to four lanes when—the crucial phrase—"funding became available."

But the loop slipped into funding oblivion as the national economic crisis deepened.

In February TxDOT said no federal stimulus funds for Texas would be used in projects such as the loop, although holding out the faint hope stimulus money would free up other funds which might wind up going to transportation projects.

Loop history

Although there was discussion of a US 79 loop as far back as the 1970s, the project didn't hit high

In April of that year TxDOT representatives unveiled possible route options, both north and south of Rockdale.

In Januar y, 2000, TxDOT announced it had chosen a northern option.

According to TxDOT, the 8.3- mile loop was to have affected 68 tracts of land including 15 single-family homes.

The was a great deal of opposition, and some support, for the US 79 loop in and around Rockdale as eight public meetings were held to discuss the plan between 1999 and 2008.

A spring, 2008, poll of businesses conducted by the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, found 19 business owners in support of the loop and 34 opposed.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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