DELTA COUNTY - The safety of Highway 24 between Cooper and Commerce is three years away from meeting the needs of local motorists.
It’s a project that’s nearly 40 years in the making, according to Delbert Horton III, chairman of the Sulphur River Regional Mobility Authority. SURRMA is one of several regional mobility authorities across the state, designed to accelerate the development and financing of critical transportation projects throughout Texas.
This week, the group did just that, receiving final approval for a loan of more than $4.4 million to move forward on the project, which will widen the remaining ten miles of State Highway 24’s two lanes into four.
Funding for construction of the project was approved in 2011, as part of Proposition 12 bonds that were first approved by voters several years ago. The price tag was about $35 million, according to Horton.
“What agreement we had worked out with TxDot is that they would fund it [the construction], if the local community would put up the money to buy the right-of-way along that stretch for the new lane. As well as any adjustments on the utility lines,” Horton said.
Of the $5.3 million needed for the right-of-way, local lawmakers were able to raise about $750,000.The rest will come from the $4.4 million loan, to be paid out over 20 years at an interest rate of 3.68 percent.
Assisting with the loan will be the local entities of Lamar County, City of Paris, Paris Economic Development Corporation and City of Cooper.
Horton says just a few weeks remain before all paperwork can be signed and finalized. A contractor will then be named in summer 2013. The entire project will take about two years to complete.
“Being a faculty member over at A&M-Commerce, coming in from Cooper every day, my insurance company will probably really be glad if they knew the risk that’s going to be removed when we get it four lanes; compared to now with all the truck traffic and so forth,” Horton said. “It’s a real thrill for me to see this thing open up so we can travel all the way to Oklahoma and all the way to Dallas on four lanes.”
SURRMA members serve Delta, Hopkins, Hunt and Lamar counties.