On Wednesday morning, the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization held a special joint session of its Policy Board and Technical Advisory Committee to discuss upcoming plans to modify its 2040 Metropolitan Transit Plan.

On Wednesday morning, the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization held a special joint session of its Policy Board and Technical Advisory Committee to discuss upcoming plans to modify its 2040 Metropolitan Transit Plan.


Both committees discussed goals and priorities for consideration when updating the plan. The MPO is preparing to make changes as federal guidelines on transportation spending shift because of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012, which is meant to reform spending on federally funded projects.


These plans come as federal funding for new projects is expected to decline. That funding decline is also expected to occur as renovation and maintenance costs increase on roads that were built during a boom in road construction in the 1970s and ’80s, said MPO Transportation Director Karl Welzenbach.


"Those roads are coming due," said Welzenbach.


The workshop included a presentation by representatives from the Dallas-based consulting firm Kimley-Horn & Associates. The firm was hired to assist in the MTP updates, which are expected to be finalized in November. Kimley-Horn’s contract for the project is for $238,500. It will be paid from the SDMPO’s planning fund.


"The Metropolitan Transportation Plan is the defining document for an MPO, and, therefore, it’s very important that we do it right by considering all options, ensuring that we’ve addressed the federal requirements, and have a viable public outreach effort," said Welzenbach, in an email after the meeting.


The presentation highlighted six goals that will be considered when prioritizing future transportation projects: safety, maintenance and system efficiency, congestion and freight reliability, environmental sustainability, transportation choices, and economic vitality.


Concerns that were addressed in the discussions on safety priorities with future projects included the design and maintenance of ramps along U.S. Highway 75 and designs meant to protect motorcyclists on roadways and pedestrian concerns on FM 1417.


"TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) as a whole considers safety its No. 1 priority," said TxDOT Paris District Engineer Paul Montgomery.


MPO members agreed on possible plans to time maintenance and other projects so they overlap. With this, MPO members hope to save money in construction and other expenses.


"This seems to give you the biggest bang for your buck," said Welzenbach.


Denison Mayor Jared Johnson, who is chairman of the Planning Board, said that federal and state guidelines for new routes and construction already take into consideration sustainability and other environmental concerns.


Likewise, the committee felt that current congestion and freight routes were of a lesser concern but shouldn’t be neglected in plans that extend to the year 2040.


Discussions on transportation choices centered around public transit and alternative forms of transportation. Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker suggested routes that are safe for and attract cyclists. Other possibilities discussed include light rail through the DART system as populations continue to spread away from the DFW-metroplex and the continued expansion of TAPS through the region.


Welzenbach stressed that roadways should be designed to protect areas of economic vitality in the region, but should be tailored to the specific area. As an example, Welzenbach brought up the differences between the shopping districts near U.S. Highway 75 and 82, and downtown Denison. Another area of concern was the North Texas Regional Airport-Perrin Field.


No plans were finalized at the meeting. In January, the MPO is expected to reconvene to continue discussion with the Metropolitan Transportation Plan subcommittee.