Antique automobile from Dick’s Classic Car Garage escorted local officials as the Wonder World Drive extension opened 20 years after conception. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
With great fanfare, San Marcos city officials opened the Wonder World extension Saturday, connecting Interstate-35 on the east with RR 12 on the west to complete the city’s first complete highway across the city.
The highway, which opened roughly 20 years after its initial conception, cost $26.28 million for construction and $16 million for engineering, land acquisition, environmental assessments, archaeological studies and mitigation since 1999, bringing the total cost of the project to just more than $42 million.
“How many of you have wondered if this day would come?” San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz asked during the opening ceremony Saturday morning. “Well wonder no more,” she added, bringing the hundreds in attendance to applause.
At the stroke 6 p.m. Saturday, Narvaiz waved as passersby flooded the 3.5-mile Wonder World Drive extension. Drivers were greeted with a freshly paved highway bordered by tree-covered hills and natural areas twisting and turning from one country scene to another.
The new highway is San Marcos’ largest transportation project in history. The project was designed to relieve traffic from downtown and historic neighborhoods in the city while also providing easier access to the western reaches of San Marcos from I-35.
Voters green-lighted the road in a 1998 bond election, but the financing wasn’t sufficient to move the project. In 2005, the U.S. Congress allocated $10 million for the project. San Marcos also entered into a pass-through agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), which guaranteed the city between $3-6 million dollars per year in reimbursements for a period of 10 to 20 years, based upon traffic volume. The first payment to San Marcos is scheduled for August 2011.
Construction on the Wonder World Drive extension began in November 2008 and was finalized this month.
The dedication ceremony, which began at 10 a.m., included an antique automobile parade escorting city officials to the site where the opening of the highway was to take place before all in attendance.
Narvaiz and the city council, along with city staff, State Rep. Patrick Rose (D-San Marcos), and other dignitaries gladly posed for pictures before ripping open the “road closed” gate, marking Saturday as the birth of the highway.
In her speech, Narvaiz read the definition of the word, “wonder,” which she said stands to describe what the new highway is. She said the highway is “huge” for San Marcos because of its mobility and safety features.
Narvaiz said Western Hays County residents will now enjoy quicker accessibility to Central Texas Medical Center (CTMC) during emergencies, where “every minute counts.” The new parkway route will have only two street lights and no at-grade railroad crossings, a big difference from the former alternative from I-35 to RR 12 that went through 10 stoplights and three railroad crossings.
The new highway is expected to serve more than 16,000 automobiles daily.
The day-long celebration began at 7 a.m. with a 5K run/walk/bike, followed by the 10 a.m. dedication ceremony and a barbecue lunch with live music and dancing.Email | Print