(Editor's note: This article has been updated throughout.)
The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a $253 million list of projects it will pursue between 2018 and 2027 during a policy board meeting Wednesday morning. This list includes proposed improvements to the U.S. Highway 75 corridor through Grayson County.
The move comes as MPOs statewide are required to submit a 10-year transportation plan complete with recommendation and prioritization criteria to the Texas Transportation Commission. During Wednesday’s meeting, officials discussed two proposed plans — one that included the improvements to Hwy. 75 and a $140 million plan that included all projects listed in the organizations 25-year Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
“This is truly a regional project along our main artery,” Grayson County Judge Bill Magers, who serves on the board, said in describing the Hwy. 75 corridor. “We are either all in or all out.”
Current proposed plans for the highway call for the widening of Hwy. 75 to include three lanes in each direction throughout the corridor and a widening of service roads. Under the plan accepted Wednesday, projects that would be required as a part of the widening, including bridge expansions and work at interchanges, has been given priority and will see work early in the timeframe.
The first projects related to Hwy. 75 to see work include the reconstruction of the interchanges at Fallon Drive and Lamberth in 2018. The $21.7 million overhaul to the interchange at U.S. Highway 82, which will feature reconfigured ramps and wider service roads, is expected to start in 2019.
The list of plans also included more than $13 million of work along FM 1417 in 2018 and 2019. This represents funded projects that the SDMPO had previously committed itself to, Barnett said. The plans also call for a new farm-to-market road to be constructed near FM 121 in anticipation of the expansion of the Dallas North Tollway into Grayson County.
Under the current proposal, Sherman will see the greatest percentage of these funds with $150.61 million, or 63 percent of the funding, spent within its borders. By comparison, Denison will receive $40.13 million in projects, representing 17 percent of the funding. Barnett noted that this does not include any local match funds.
In the alternative plan, Sherman would receive $70.76 million, 50 percent of the funding with Denison receiving about half as much.
“I recognize that Sherman is getting a huge percentage of the pie, but the pie is bigger,” Barnett said, comparing the plan to the alternative. “Everyone gets more pie.”
In order to fund these projects, Barnett proposed that the organization pursue $98 million in Category 12 funding from the commission. These funds represent nearly $10 billion in discretionary spending for projects that represent priorities for the commission, Barnett said. In order to supplement these funds, Barnett also proposed a local match of about $14 million from the county and local municipalities.
These local match funds would include 10 percent of all projects that are requested by the city that are not required to build and expand the main lanes of the highway. As an example, Barnett referenced proposed work on Spur 503 and Travis Street. Grayson County will contribute 5 percent of the costs for all other projects along the corridor. Pottsboro will also contribute 5 percent toward improvements along State Highway 289.
Following the proposals, Magers voiced his support for the plan, noting that it represents a major line of improvements to the area infrastructure.
“Are we going to start taking steps to truly bring quality transportation to the community or not,” Magers asked.
Denison Mayor Jared Johnson, who also sits on the board, said he was disappointed to see some of Denison’s projects moved back in priority by this plan. He also noted that Denison only gains $5.34 million in additional funding for its $2.49 million in local match.
However, when the motion was put to a vote, Johnson, along with the entire board, voted in favor of the proposal. Following the meeting, Johnson said he was confident that some aspects, including local match and the schedule of projects, would be shifted as planning moves forward.
Barnett said projects along Hwy. 75 are expected to continue beyond the next 10 years, with consultants estimating the full improvements could cost nearly $700 million to complete.
With the plan approved by the board, Barnett said he will submit it to the commission in time for the Feb. 10 deadline. If full funding is not approved, Barnett said the plan can be revised and updated to account for what funding is available.