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Members of the John King family check out the new sign that was unveiled Monday during the groundbreaking ceremony for the John King Boulevard interchange project. Family members who attended the groundbreaking ceremony are (from left) his wife, Marilyn King; son-in-law, Joseph Crisp; nephew, Sterling King; and daughter, Melinda Crisp.

Jim Hardin

Before dignitaries had a chance to break ground for the new John King Boulevard interchange, Melinda Crisp broke up the audience with a cheer when her dad’s name was mentioned for the first time.

Crisp cheered when County Commissioner Lorie Grinnan mentioned John King Boulevard during her opening remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon.

The cheer was followed by, “Yay, Daddy.”

King’s widow, Marilyn, also slipped some humor into her brief speech.

“How special it is to have all of you here today for this groundbreaking ceremony,” she said. “John King Boulevard is a beautiful tribute to my husband, John. He will live among us forever. He’ll even be in the Mapsco street guide.”

King was a former Rockwall City Council member.

The comments then took on a more serious tone.

“This is a momentous occasion,” Grinnan said. “This interchange, it doesn’t look like much right now, but it will have a high impact on our citizens. It’s going to provide a north-south passageway that will help keep traffic off some other roads. It will help provide ease in transport and economic development.”

County Commissioner Jerry Wimpee mentioned a sign that was erected at the site. It hadn’t been unveiled, but Wimpee said he had an idea about the sign’s message.

Wimpee said he was aware of the spirit behind the sign’s message. It reminded him of a quote by Henry Ford: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. And working together is success.”

“That’s what this is all about,” Wimpee said. “It goes back to those times when we came together, we found a way, even though we disagreed on a lot of things … and this is the proof of that work.”

Wimpee and fellow Commissioner David Magness later unveiled the sign. Under a heading of “Working Together,” the sign states: “This road project is made possible by the Rockwall County 2004 Road Bond.” The sign named Rockwall County, TxDot, Rockwall, Heath, Rowlett, Royse City, Fate and McLendon-Chisholm .

Rockwall Mayor Bill Cecil said the interchange project is another example of “all of us working together, staying together, communicating and having one voice.”

The unified voice, he said, is through the Rockwall County Planning Consortium.

“I just want to praise and thank everyone for that kind of effort, that kind of working together,” Cecil said. “It means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to others.”

According to Cecil, John King Boulevard ended up costing about $64 million, and the interchange will cost a little less than $20 million.

“When you add all that up, it’s a lot of money,” the mayor said. “I appreciate everybody who participated and worked so hard to approve the necessary parts that brought us to this point today.

“And I want to thank y’all for being here today. I want to thank all our citizens for supporting us or it wouldn’t have happened anyway.”

After the speeches, Wimpee and Magness unveiled the sign, located on John King Boulevard, just south of Interstate 30.

The dignitaries — including representatives of the city, county, school district, chamber of commerce, economic development and Texas Department of Transportation — joined with the King family in turning the first shovels of dirt on the project.

Construction is scheduled to begin next week.

The project will link John King Boulevard, a 7.5-mile highway that stretches from Texas 205 south of Rockwall to Texas 205 north of the city.

The new highway, however, does not cross I-30. During construction, I-30 will be elevated and the final portion of John King Boulevard will be constructed under the interstate.

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