By BRAD KELLAR
North Texas transportation officials Thursday voted to approve funding for two major highway improvement projects in Hunt County.
The Regional Transportation Council of the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) allocated $8.3 million to the expansion of Farm-to-Market 1570 and State Highway 34.
Extending FM 1570, from State Highway 66 to U.S. Highway 380 will cost an estimated $6.8 million to build a two-lane undivided roadway. Construction is expected to begin in 2016, with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) already committing $300,000 for preliminary engineering during the coming year. Right-of-way acquisition is scheduled to begin in the next fiscal year, and utility work will start in fiscal year 2015.
The roadway may eventually be part of a partial loop around Greenville and is included under the thoroughfare plan developed by the Hunt County Transportation Committee, after a two-year planning effort by the NCTCOG, according to Hunt County Judge John Horn.
“We had a lot of passion projects, but didn’t have a lot of objective criteria to evaluate the need,” Horn said. “The planning NCTCOG helped us with gives us more of that objective data we need in order to prioritize and move forward with the implementation of a long-term vision.”
A 19-mile stretch of State Highway 34 from Interstate Highway 30 to County Road 2312 — near the Hunt/Kaufman county line — is to be widened from two to five lanes. Preliminary engineering for the project is expected to begin during the next fiscal year. About $1.5 million in federal and state funding has been set aside, but more money will be required as the roadway moves closer to construction.
Earlier this year, the NCTCOG identified Hunt County as a focus area for the next round of funding efforts in the region. As such, NCTCOG in coordination with the TxDOT Paris District and Hunt County began discussions to prioritize transportation needs across the county. Hunt County’s population was estimated at 87,290 people in January 2012, one-half percent more than the previous year, according to NCTCOG’s latest population estimates.
Horn said the study helped officials realize Hunt County is a “gateway to the east.
“Not only are people trying to get to Dallas and Fort Worth through Hunt County, but they are traveling east through the county from the metropolitan core, and this requires reliable transportation options,” Horn said.