A decades-old project will finally begin paving its way around Dublin, according to representatives with the Texas Department of Transportation.

Plans for the Dublin Loop Project, which began in the early 1990s, are coming to fruition and TxDOT expects construction on the first phase of the controlled-access State Highway 267 to begin by January.

The first phase will connect State Highway 67 (US Highway 377) to State Highway 6 and intersect State Highway 219 and County Road 351.

The 3.1 mile loop will begin just north of Allsup's Convenience Store on 67, then cross CR 351 and continue to SH 6 just west of Stephen's Welding. It will cross SH 219 and 18 private properties.

"The first phase of the Dublin Loop will handle traffic to and from De Leon and relieve severe traffic congestion downtown," said Buddie Lasater with TxDOT. "We hope to decongest a lot of the traffic in Dublin."

The project is expected to cost about $9 million, Lasater said.

In 2010, traffic from SH 6 accounted for almost 40 percent of traffic traveling on US 67.

Annual TxDOT traffic counts have continued rising on US 67, especially for traffic coming into Dublin on SH 6 from De Leon.

TxDOT counted 10,100 cars per day on US 67, and 3,600 on SH 6.

Since SH 267 is an entirely new roadway, and there are only two roads the loop will cross, construction will have minimal impact on motorists, Lasater said.

"There should be very minimal impact to the public during construction because the bulk of the work will be away from any existing roads," Lasater said.

The loop will be a controlled access highway, which prevents landowners from building driveways and other means of access onto the loop.

"State 267 will be controlled access which keeps business downtown and allows for quicker commutes," Lasater said.

TxDOT loops function as a bypass route for through traffic on major highways running through cities, like Dublin. Similar loops were constructed years ago in Stephenville and Granbury, but both became major highways with a lot of congestion due to businesses and residents moving in along both thoroughfares.

"Today there is a lot of traffic on the loops in Granbury and in Stephenville," Lasater said. "Stephenville now has an urban business development on the loop. It's not even a loop anymore."

The Dublin Loop will be similar to Loop Highway 67, which allows motorists to quickly pass through Cleburne without stoplights or other motorists entering or exiting roads.

The competitive bidding process to hire a contractor to build the Dublin loop will begin in August, and it could take months before a final contract is signed.

Construction is expected to take 16 months.

Public hearings on the project were held in Dublin in 1998, 2001 and 2002.

TxDOT's Erath County area office submitted formal plans for the project to the state after Texas voters approved Proposition 12 in 2008. Under Prop. 12, the state of Texas issued $5 billion in general obligation bonds to fund highway construction.

The second phase of the Dublin Loop Project is currently unfunded by the state legislature, but will one day connect SH 6 to SH 67 south of Dublin near Aurora Dairy, according to Lasater.

The second half will cross four properties and TxDOT is in final negotiations with two landowners to gain rights of access for the second phase of construction.

Once the entire loop is complete, TxDOT will designate Patrick Street in Dublin as Business 67 and the loop will become SH 67. Until then, the first half will remain SH 267.

TxDOT's longterm goal is to construct a four lane divided highway connecting Fort Worth to Brownwood, according to Lasater.

Lasater said TxDOT has similar visions for U.S. Highway 281 from Stephenville to San Antonio.