The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization recently tabled a request by the city of Howe that was related to a proposed $3.4 million improvement to FM 902. The improvement project would create a new 1.5-mile, two-lane bypass along FM 902 from the U.S. Highway 75 interchange to Ponderosa Road, effectively uniting both sections of the farm-to-market road.
The proposed project would utilize funds generated through Texas Propositions 1 and 7, however members of the policy board expressed concerns over how much funding the SDMPO would receive. The request by Howe would have sent the project out for public comment prior to its addition to the SDMPO’s 25-year plan.
“With all the unknowns about funding, I was concerned where the money’s coming from and no one seemed to have an answer,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers, who serves on the policy board, said earlier this month.
SDMPO Director Clay Barnett said the city of Howe discussed the project with the previous director, Karl Welzenbach, earlier this year. The project was also reviewed by the SDMPO’s Technical Advisory Committee prior to the Dec. 7th meeting, Barnett said.
In August, SDMPO officials estimated that the organization could see nearly $93 million is funding for roadway projects over the next decade. These estimates came from figures released by the Texas Transportation Commission, the body that oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, who approved $70 billion in roadway spending in its 2017 Unified Transportation Plan.
Since that time, Barnett said the Texas Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations has been in discussions on what criteria should be used for these funds to be distributed. Currently, the larger MPOs have been advocating for distribution based on population. Under this criteria, Barnett said the SDMPO would likely see about $70 million in funding instead.
“In my opinion, that is contrary to what the legislature set this money for,” Barnett continued. “They wanted it to go for needs.”
Barnett said that distributing funding based on other factors would be more favorable for the SDMPO. Compared to other areas, Barnett said the Sherman-Denison area sees a higher crash volume and vehicle miles traveled, thanks in part to Hwy. 75.
“I am continuing to advocate for measures other than population,” he said. “Historically, anything other than population helps us.”
Magers asked that the item be tabled until March, when the Texas state legislature reconvenes into session. By that time, Magers said he hoped there would be more clarity on how much the MPO is expected to receive in funding.