The first phase of safety and traffic flow improvements to U.S. Highway 75 at Morton Street are expected to be completed in August, officials with the Texas Department of Transportation and city of Denison said last week. These improvements include a reversal of the on and off ramps for the highway and a new U-turn lane across the bridge for northbound traffic.

The update came as a part of Denison City Manager Jud Rex’s weekly report to city staff and the city council. The report added that design for a second phase, which will see ramp reversals for the southbound service road, is ongoing with construction contracts expected to be bid out in August.

“The contractor hopes to finish this project by Aug 17th, however, they are about a week or two behind due to weather delays,” TxDOT Public Information Officer Tim McAlavy said in an email Wednesday. “TxDOT anticipates a late August or early September completion date, weather permitting.”

The project will see the location of the ramps near Morton Street shifted to improve traffic safety, signal light timing and provide increased access for traffic exiting the highway, officials said. Once the work is completed, the on-ramp for the highway will be located just south of Crawford Street while traffic will exit Hwy. 75 after Crawford, Rex said in an interview Wednesday.

By changing the locations of these ramps, officials said drivers will have more time and distance to maneuver for turns and lane changes when approaching the intersection. The new turn lane across the Morton Street Bridge will also traffic to merge onto the southbound service lanes without needing to enter the intersection itself. This is designed not only to address current traffic demands but also future congestion as the area continued to develop, McAlavy said.

“The ramp reversals will improve safety by having traffic perform its weaving motion on the frontage road where the speeds are lower and the traffic is lighter, rather than on the main lanes of US 75,” McAlavy said.

“The turnaround at the bridge improves safety because it allows traffic heading north wanting to go south, to Wal-Mart or other businesses, the ability to make this change without having to go through two signal intersections,” McAlavy continued. “This reduces the amount of traffic at the intersections and improves the signal operations, especially during peak traffic times.”

For the city of Denison, however, the project has the added benefit of opening about 50 acres of land to increased traffic, making it more marketable and desirable to retail and restaurant developments. Beyond opening up additional land for development, Rex said the changes will allow increased access to existing businesses along the roadway.

“I think if there isn’t a lot of traffic, and you are skilled, you can just barely turn in to the North Rig from the off ramp,” Rex said.

McAlavy estimated that the northbound phase of the project will cost about $4.77 million, with the southbound portion estimated at $3.69 million.

In addition to the ramp reversals and improvements to the bridge, the city of Denison will also be financing $102,000 of aesthetic improvements to the bridge including improved lighting, railing and paint. Rex said the aesthetic improvements will also be installed on the north end of the bridge, which will not see major structural changes.