Traveling through Wichita Falls just got a lot easier. Tuesday was the long awaited dedication and opening of the "Falls Flyover" - the fifth and final phase in a plan to guide the city into the future. It's an interchange - or a bridge - that connects the elevated Highway 287 with the new Kell Freeway.
The $32 Million transportation project - spanning 40 years - took almost two years to complete. City and state officials joined Wichita Falls citizens in a ribbon cutting ceremony officially opening the "Falls Flyover". It's comprised of four bridges used to connect US Highway 82 with Highway 287 - high above all the traffic lights. Wichita Falls Mayor Lanham Lyne says it's really something to see.
The project was envisioned in 1964 and planning began a bit later. After a $6 Million dollar bond election passed, the other half was funded by TxDot. "448 homes and businesses were bought and the landowners relocated to make way for Kell Freeway." But, according to TxDot, construction didn't begin until December 1985. "The (3.5 mile) interchange will allow motorists to change freeways without stopping at traffic signals."
"It really is exciting," says Lyne. "Although when I look back over it and look at how high that bridge is, I, you know that first time over it is going to be a little exciting, that's for sure." The bridge is 90 feet tall and the tallest transportation structure in the city.
"So it's going to cut down on my traveling time," says Dave Perkins. He lives in Wichita Falls but works in Lawton - he's got a long commute - so he loves the idea of the new ramps onto the elevated freeway. "This is going to make my trip a lot easier," he says.
But, it won't just save people time. TxDot District Engineer Larry Tegtmeyer says it will save lives - traffic won't be so congested and there won't be as many accidents. "It shortens people's travel time, it makes it much safer, and it is good for business," he says. And, Mayor Lyne agrees. "It's really exciting because this has been such a long project," he says. "But more than that, this opens up a crossroads that ties in Abilene, and Lubbock, Dallas, OKC, you name it."