Before the ceremony began, a young boy and his mother let Mayor Darren Rozell know that the boy wanted to be at the event so that he could do his part to help build the bridge. He even brought his own little shovel. Mayor Rozell vowed to let the little guy dig some dirt after the ceremony was over. The mayor was joined at the event by all city council members, City Manager Brian Brooks, Assistant City Manager Gina Nash, as well as Kim Buttram and Matt Ferguson from the Forney EDC.
Matt Ferguson kicked off the ceremony by saying, “Five years of planning and hard work have led us to this day.” Keynote Speaker, Texas Senator Bob Deuell followed Ferguson and told the crowd, “The fact that this bridge has to be built is representative of the fact that people want to live in this area.” He said progress and growth are needed and it was important to him to hear people say, “We're glad you did that, not, why didn't you do that?”
Mayor Rozell addressed the crowd, telling them that the Regional Transportation Council contributed $9 million to the Gateway Bridge project and that the City of Forney is contributing over $3 million. The rest of the nearly $10 million in funding comes from the W. Herbert Hunt Family Investment Group. The Gateway Bridge is scheduled to be completed in October 2013 if everything goes according to plan. Ultimately the entire project will run from FM 548, to Highway 80, and over to FM 1641 near Highway 20. It will make traffic flow from North and South Forney much easier. Mayor Rozell told the audience, “This project is going to benefit this community. I think we have the most exceptional people and a bright future. By being here today...you are a part of Forney's history and a part of Forney's future.”
83-year-old Herbert Hunt was also in attendance and mentioned the population growth of Forney from 2000-2010. The State of Texas had a population boom of 26.6% in those 10 years, but during those same years, Forney's population grew 162%. Hunt said, “That is only the beginning.” He thanked former Mayor Darryl Grooms, saying, “This was his dream.” He said he was told that 23 trains go through Forney every day and he is sure that having a bridge that goes over the trains will make motorists a lot happier. Already 662 acres near the new bridge have been zoned for commercial and retail space to make room for a shopping/dining/entertainment center. Mr. Hunt said, “I think we will see several billion dollars of infrastructure and improvements as a result of this project.” He finished his speech by saying, “As far as I'm concerned, this project is a gateway to the future.”
According to TxDOT, the project is needed because of the increasing transportation demands that are a result of the “rapid development along the U.S. 80 corridor.” The City of Forney has a roadway network plan to handle the residential growth, which includes building the Gateway Bridge and the planned Forney Parkway, which will be a new four-mile section of roadway. Tracey Friggle of TxDOT reminded residents to be cautious around the road construction and to drive safely so that none of the road workers are injured.
Forney citizen and real estate businessman Matt Malone wanted to watch the groundbreaking event and is happy to see the project get underway. He said, “I feel that growth is inevitable for Forney. It's good to see a group of smart city officials and private businesses make sure that the growth is done properly.”
The turning of dirt today is just a small step in this multi-million dollar project that has been in the works for five years, but it is a giant step into Forney's future.
Photos courtesy Big Shots Photography