More than a year after approving an advance funding agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation, Sherman is ready to move forward with work on the second phase of its Streetscape Project in downtown.
The funding agreement was approved in July of last year and the Sherman City Council recently approved a request by city staff to start advertising for bids on the construction work for the second phase of the Sherman Streetscape Project. TxDOT chose the project for a Transportation Alternatives Program, which will provide the bulk of the funding for the work to add a 10-foot-wide sidewalk along Houston and Lamar streets from Walnut Street to Throckmorton Street.
“This is a project that we’ve been working on since April of 2015,” Director of Engineering Clint Philpott said. “We received the grant in September of 2015 but didn’t actually sign the agreement to start the design of it until July of last year with TxDOT. And because it was a grant through TxDOT, we had to go through all the hoops that TxDOT requires us to do as far as environmental studies and those things, so we’re finally at the point we’re ready to advertise.”
The advance funding agreement with TxDOT will see the city paying an estimated $40,783 of the total project’s $515,928 construction cost. When the second phase of the city’s Streetscape Project was discussed last year, city staff said 39,800 square feet of existing sidewalks were to be removed and replaced with 68,400 square feet of new 10-foot-wide sidewalks on each side of the street.
“We’ll start bidding that and hopefully start construction sometime this fall,” Philpott said.
After council member Pam Howeth asked how Throckmorton Street was chosen as the stopping point for the work at this point, Philpott explained it was about where the money was expected to run out.
“We were trying to hit about a half million dollar target for our grant application,” Philpott said. “I think the total grant amount is about $2 million and we thought that half-million mark gave us the best opportunities to receive the grant.”
Sherman’s director of engineering said once this phase of the project is completed, the city plans to apply for another grant to do a third phase of the project.
“The goal, originally, was to take it all the way to the high school,” Philpott said. “If that now becomes a junior high, that can still be the extent or it may be that we stop at Grand Avenue. But having a wide thoroughfare for pedestrians and bike uses from that area of town through downtown was the goal.”
The board of trustees of the Sherman Independent School District is currently mulling options for a $170 million-bond election that would allow a new $157.8 million Sherman High School to be built on district-owned property near the intersection of OB Groner Road and FM 1417. The current Sherman High School would then be repurposed as a middle school for the district. The board is expected to decide whether to call the bond election during the board’s next meeting on Aug. 21, which is the last date it can call an election for this November.
Though Sherman is planning to apply for another grant for the next phase of the Streetscape Project, City Manager Robby Hefton made it clear the city has only been approved for the planned second phase at this point.
“TxDOT dollars for this program could dry up or could expand,” Hefton said, adding they’re unlikely to expand. “But we would have to reapply and go through the same process for this next phase.”
In addition to the sidewalks, the planned project will also see 14 ramps installed that meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, 60 trees planted and the creation of eight railroad crossings for pedestrians. The city included $150,000 in the 2015-2020 Capital Improvement Program for the design of the project and as local match funds.
Hefton previously said the third phase could complete the project, but depending on the availability of funds from TxDOT, there may be additional phases beyond one more.
The city was awarded a grant from TxDOT in July 2010 for the first phase of the Streetscape Project. The grant was executed in March 2012 for the amount of $353,977.60, while the city put up the remaining $256,208.91 of the projects total construction cost of $610,186.51. With the funds, Sherman created pedestrian-friendly plazas around the Grayson County Courthouse and decreased the pedestrian crosswalks. That initial phase of the Streetscape Project was completed in November 2012.