Sherman is moving forward with plans to make it easier to reach the land where Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille will be developing an entertainment complex on the city’s south side.

The Sherman City Council unanimously approved the execution of an advance funding agreement Monday with the Texas Department of Transportation for the planned reversal of the northbound U.S. Highway 75 entrance and exit ramps immediately south of FM 1417.

“This is an agreement with TxDOT for the ramp reversals that were approved last meeting south of 1417,” Director of Engineering Clint Philpott said. “I’ll just remind you guys that this will be a shared project with SEDCO (Sherman Economic Development Corp.) and the city. And it’ll open up growth around that Tax Reinvestment Zone No. 7.”

The move comes two weeks after the council approved the execution of a $162,245.60 professional services agreement with H.W. Lochner Inc. for engineering design work for the reversal of the two ramps. Lochner is the same engineering company that is working on plans to widen FM 1417.

The advance funding agreement approved Monday calls for the city to pay TxDOT $2 million, which is the estimated cost for the project. The agreement, which covers from FM 1417 to 1.171 miles south of the roadway, also states that total isn’t necessarily the final payment, as local participation will be based on the actual costs of the project.

The city and SEDCO will share in the funding of the ramp reversal project, while TxDOT will oversee the construction.

“We’ll probably go halvesies with SEDCO on it,” City Manager Robby Hefton said of paying for the work. “But we’ve got to work out of the details (as) $2 million is a good chunk of change. SEDCO may want to finance their piece for instance.”

In a document prepared for the council, city staff said Sherman’s funds for the project will come from certificates of obligation to be issued by the city in 2018. During Monday’s meeting, Hefton said that could just be one source of the funds.

“We have a bunch of moving parts, like the sale of land at that corner,” Hefton said of other avenues to pay for the work. “The eventual sale of land that we have on (FM) 1417 and Travis Street are going to be providing some dollars as well that could offset the need to even use debt to do that. We just won’t know all of that until we get this next round of projects that are coming up in the pipeline.”

With commercial developments planned for the northwest and southeast corners of the intersection of Hwy. 75 and FM 1417, city staff said the current design of the entrance and exit ramps would be an impediment to the success of those developments. The existing northbound ramps also do not meet current TxDOT standards.

In October, Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille announced plans to open an entertainment complex as part of a planned full development of the 22-acre tract of land on the southeast corner of Hwy. 75 and FM 1417. Sherman Crossroads Ltd. is planning a mixed-use development of commercial and retail offerings it expects will complement the Emergency Center of North Texas free-standing emergency department currently being constructed on the northwest corner of the Hwy. 75-FM 1417 intersection.

The city’s contract with Lochner calls for the company to provide designs that will increase the flow of traffic along the northbound Hwy. 75 service road. The current exit ramp on the northbound side of Hwy. 75 is much closer to FM 1417 than the entrance ramp, so reversing the two ramps will mean drivers traveling north will have to exit earlier to take the FM 1417 exit. Hefton said both ramps will be moved further south from where they are today and the design should mirror what was done to the southbound ramps for FM 1417.

Hefton previously explained the work will likely take about 12 months if TxDOT decides to reverse the ramps back-to-back, but the development at the southeast corner of the intersection of Hwy. 75 and FM 1417 may delay things.

“Construction is going to be probably (starting in the) second quarter of 2018,” Hefton said. “I think it’s probably going to be a four- to six-month design.”

Deputy Mayor Pamela L. Howeth asked about the chances of the ramp reversal project being completed before the Schulman’s development opens for business and Hefton said it likely would be “tight.”

“If weather cooperates, engineering should be pretty straightforward, construction should be pretty straightforward,” Hefton said. “We don’t expect there to be any problems.”

The city manager then explained TxDOT could decide to work on the exit ramp first so as not to disturb the 2018 holiday shopping season, and then work on the entrance ramp at the beginning of 2019.

“It’s the off-ramp that is going to especially have an increase (in traffic) if Schulman’s opens by the end of next year,” Howeth said. “We want to make it as convenient as possible for people to use that facility.”