by Victor Lopez
WARD COUNTY--We all know, when you drive through West Texas, there's not much between our towns. Now, travelers along Interstate 20 will soon have a new place to pull over.
Ground was broken on a new safety rest area in Ward County on Tuesday and this won't be any ordinary pit stop.
According to Mike McAnally, District Engineer for the Odessa District of the Texas Department of Transportation, "They will have a visitors center. This one will have some heritage and historical significance. It will have a playground."
VIP's representing TXDOT, the Texas Historical Society, Ward County and the City of Monahans gathered just outside of Pyote to officially break ground on what many say is a project that's been a long time coming.
"One of the fascinating things is the Rattlesnake Bomber Base that is located very nearby in Pyote. Not so much of it is left anymore and this would be a great opportunity for TXDOT to build a rest area that would resemble an air base," McAnally said.
With a $14.5 million price tag, construction of the new rest area will serve more than just a beautification project. It will help cut down on deaths along the Interstate.
"There's a lot of distance between major communities here where people can stop and we're hoping to attract them. Safety is first and foremost on our mind," McAnally explained.
Piles of dirt and caliche may not look like much now, in fact, they don't look like anything now. But when the project is complete, drivers between Pecos and Monahans on I-20, will have a place to pull over, rest from the road, and if they're not careful, they may learn something.
"We're thoroughly pleased to find out that, not only are we going to be talking about Pyote Army Air Field, but they were going to talk about West Texas bomber schools, in general, which is truly a undertow part of Texas World War II history. They've incorporated many of the elements, from the control tower to what the hangars looked like, in the new Safety Rest Area," William McWhorter, with the Texas Historical Commission, said.
The new rest area will be paid for through a grant from the Transportation Enhancement Fund which means it won't cost local taxpayers a dime.
But in return, Monahans Mayor David Cutbirth says it will do wonders for the local economy.
"We see some job creation. Hotels are adding people. We've got two new ones and looks like one more may come on board. We see some new convenience stores and certainly the fast food places along the Interstate, that can draw people off the Interstate and create jobs," Cutbirth said.
Construction started on both sides of the Interstate in November of 2010 and will go on at the same time, leaving the current rest area intact and open. The first weary travelers will be welcomed to the new site in March of 2012, a date which also has some significance.
"The 70th anniversary of the United States entering WWII will be December 7, 2011. People traveling across the state of Texas will have a rest area they can stop in and learn more about the great state of Texas," McWhorter said.