July 27, 2015 - TxDOT officials along with the City of Center and the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting celebration today, July 27, 2015. A large group of citizens, dignitaries, TxDOT official were in attendance.
After the ribbon cutting, the group then met at the John D. Windham Civic Center for luncheon. Speakers for the event were Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville), Texas Transportation Commissioner Jeff Austin III, Mayor David Chadwick and Lufkin TxDOT District Engineer Cheryl Flood.
The Loop is not officially open until next week; James Construction Group is completing the striping on the new roadway and signage. The new portion should reduce congestion and improve safety around the square.
A group of concern citizens first addressed the need for the loop to help with traffic congestion in 1974. The group traveled to Austin and spoke with then Highway Commissioner, Robert Nichols. The initial start of money for the loop for engineering, right of ways, and design was estimated at one million dollars for the county's share. The City of Center obligated 10 percent of the estimate construction costs toward the Northeast Extension of the Loop.
The existing Loop 500 has been constructed in several phases from 1982 to 1985. The connection from Hwy 96 North to Hwy 7 East began with a feasibility study in November 1991 and revised in February 1993; however, the project did not advance to the planning stage due to it low-priority statewide project ranking at that time. The project was reactivated at the request of local officials and past county judge, Rick Campbell, who were concerned about the frequency and severity of accidents in and around Center.
Permits were received and the project was let to James Construction Group in July 2012 for a bid of $11.9 million. Work began on State Loop 500 in November 2012.