An agreement reached last Friday to finance a proposed Fort Worth toll road – also known as the Southwest Parkway – linking that city and Cleburne could bring some big changes to Glen Rose if the tollway is built, local officials said. 

The North Texas Tollway Authority agreed to build the road, which will run 28 miles from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 west of Cleburne, and jointly finance its cost with the state. Construction would begin in 2011 and the tollway would be open by late 2013.

The parkway has been on the drawing board as a non-toll state highway since the 1960s, but it took decades of discussions about scope and funding to make the road a reality.

Billy Huckaby, director of the Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau, recalled going to meetings about the tollway when he owned the Joshua newspaper more than 20 years ago.

“It think it will be great if it's built, but I'll believe it when I see it,” he said.

Glen Rose officials weren't directly involved in discussions about the tollway, Mayor Pam Miller said.

“We'll see if it takes place and if it brings more growth to Glen Rose, we will address that,” she said.

Others saw the proposed tollway as driving more people – and change – to the city.

 “The long-term impact is we’re going to become a bedroom community to southern Fort Worth,” said Glen Rose City Councilman Bob Stricklin.

“You’ll see industrial growth along that corridor,” Stricklin added. “I would imagine within five years you’ll start seeing more reason for population growth here. Since we are not on a major freeway and there’s no railroad or industrial spur, we will be more of a travel destination or a bedroom community.”

The commute time between Glen Rose and Fort Worth could decrease to under an hour, making it easier for tourists to travel to Somervell County and for those residents who commute to the Fort Worth area to work.

Huckaby said he didn't think a bit shorter travel time necessarily would attract more tourists. But “for those people who commute, it could make a difference,” he said.

Right now, the main ways to reach Fort Worth from Glen Rose are to take State Highway 144 north to Granbury and fight the traffic and string of red lights on U.S. 377, or to travel to Granbury to Weatherford and hook up with Interstate 20. That path avoids the Granbury congestion, but is out of the way.

Another main route is to drive east on U.S. 67 Cleburne and either travel on Texas 174 through Joshua and Burleon to Interstate 35, or to cut through Keene east of Cleburne and travel on a narrow farm road to Interstate 35 – only to hit the congestion there, especially at rush hour. Plans for the tollway have been stymied by debate over the funding. The state originally wanted to lease the project to a private toll road developer, but authorities in Fort Worth and surrounding areas impacted by the route wanted a regional entity to oversee it.

Under the financing agreement, the authority agreed to pay $458 million. The state would loan money backed by state gas tax dollars to cover expenses for the tollway and another project, Texas 161.

The Johnson County portion of the Southwest Parkway project is called Chisholm Trail. Last month ground-breaking ceremonies were held in Cleburne to make improvements on U.S. 67.

Plans call for U.S. 67 to be expanded to a four-lane divided highway with several new bridges, access ramps and frontage roads constructed at the junction of that highway and State Highway 174. Currently, drivers must exit U.S. 67 and turn at a traffic light to reach SH 174. The total construction cost to redesign and built the new interchange is $31 million.

The new interchange will be constructed at Nolan River Road over U.S. 67, which will be the gateway to the future Chisholm Trail Corridor.

New diamond-shaped interchanges also will be constructed at County Road 1121 and Farm Road 4. Also, new access ramps will be built at Business U.S. 67 and U.S. 67 near the hospital.

Between 12,000 and 15,000 vehicles travel on these portions of U.S. 67 daily, the Texas Department of Transportation estimated. SH 174 averages 25,000 vehicles a day and SH 171 averages 7,100.