Commuters in Whitehouse and Eastern Smith County will be able to travel on the latest section of Loop 49 Toll Road beginning Thursday afternoon.

Segment 5 will open to traffic from State Highway 110 North of  Whitehouse and will connect to the existing section of the Loop that goes to Highway 155 South.

As part of the new opening , new traffic signals will be activated at Toll 49 and SH 110 north of Whitehouse, and at FM 2964 (Rhone’s Quarter).

“It’s an exciting time for us, and for East Texas,” said TxDOT spokesman Larry Krantz. “We’re finally starting to realize the potential this project promised when we opened the first segment.”

Toll 49 opened its first segment, between US 69 and SH 155, in August 2006. Segment 2 extended the toll road to FM 756 in January 2008. Once segments 3A and 5 are open, Toll 49 will stretch approximately 16 miles between SH 31 west of Tyler and SH 110 southeast of Tyler, essentially from Chandler to Whitehouse.

Electronic toll collection on Segment 5 will begin in August.

“In the meantime,” Krantz added, “It’s free to drive on Toll 49 between SH 110 and FM 756 (Paluxy Drive). Once tolling begins, it will cost 25 cents with a TxTAG to drive the new segment.”

Segment 3B of Toll 49, which will connect SH 31 west of Tyler and IH 20 near Hide-A-Way Lake, is scheduled to open by the end of 2013, according to the NETRMA, which is overseeing its construction.

The $15.6 million Segment 5 project was made possible by funding from Proposition 14, which borrows money against future gas tax revenues to push projects forward.

Proposition 14 funding for several projects across the state was awarded on a competitive basis.

“The light has finally turned green on this segment,” Krantz said in a February 2010 release when the project broke ground. “We thought we’d secured funding for this project several times, only to see it slip away for one reason or another.”

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