COPPERAS COVE — A horse helped christen State Highway 9 on Thursday hours before the roadway opened to traffic.
NYC and his trooper, Sgt. Jessie Hurst, of the 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Cavalry Detachment, rode up to a yellow ribbon stretching across an empty lane of traffic. NYC turned, and Hurst swung his saber through the ribbon.
“This is going to give a great opportunity to connect communities and create economic opportunities,” said Coryell County Judge John Firth, at the 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, three hours before the highway opened to motorists.
The 3.2-mile-long roadway cuts across Fort Hood with limited access points in Copperas Cove and the military post. It takes traffic from just east of the Five Hills shopping center on U.S. Highway 190 to North Farm-to-Market 116 near Courtney Lane.
It will let people from both Lampasas County and Gatesville travel to Fort Hood or Killeen, Firth said.
It is a new way that will avoid the congestion of Copperas Cove roads, which will increase safety and traffic flow throughout the city.
Copperas Cove resident Irving Jensen was excited to see the roadway open after watching it be built for three years, he said at the ceremony.
“It means a shorter route for me, because I live right at the end of it,” Jensen said. “I have been waiting for it. If I get on this highway now, it should probably take me less than 10 minutes to get to Killeen.”
Jensen said he travels to the neighboring city almost daily.
Mayor Pro Tem Frank Seffrood said diverting some of the traffic from U.S. 190 and other major thoroughfares will decrease the bumper-to-bumper vehicles that plague the city now.
With lighter traffic on U.S. 190, people are more likely to cross into business parking lots and patronize Cove establishments.
Increasing the safety of the soldiers and the families who live and travel through Cove is definitely a benefit for Fort Hood, said Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Matthew Elledge at the ceremony.
“I am sure those that live in Gatesville, this will be their preferred route,” Elledge said.
Officials said starting and completing the $34.7 million project was a combined effort by several entities, including the city; the Texas Department of Transportation; Killeen-Temple Metropolitan Planning Organization; Coryell County; Fort Hood; the general contractor, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Ledcor Inc.; and many surrounding communities.
It was the planning of the communities that brought this project to fruition, they said.
They also echoed Mayor John Hull, who said, “It is just another great day for the city of Copperas Cove.”