Officials with the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a 10-year list of projects Wednesday it plans to pursue by 2027. Among these priority projects are plans to improve U.S. Highway 75 to interstate standards and close what has been called the gap on Hwy. 75.
The list of projects will be submitted to the Texas Department of Transportation for inclusion in the organization’s 2018-2028 Unified Transportation Plan. Through inclusion in this plan, local projects will be eligible for additional funding through the Texas Transportation Commission.
“We are still working out the dollar amounts, but this is the 10 year list of projects we plan to take to TxDOT,” SDMPO Director Clay Barnett said Wednesday.
Barnett said the highway, including the connected Interstate 45 from Houston to Dallas, meets interstate standards and guidelines through its entire length in Texas except for about three and a half miles in Sherman. Under the proposed changes, this and other stretches of the highway would be rebuilt and expanded from four to six lanes.
Barnett said this would address the issues, including height and ramp concerns, that are not within interstate standards. By bringing the roadway up to this standard, officials with the MPO Policy Board said it would bring the highway a step closer to interstate designation and additional funding.
Of the 15 projects scheduled to take place over the next 10 years, seven of them take place on Hwy. 75. Of those, four are listed as priority projects during this time frame. The first two of these priority projects would take place in 2020 and cover the areas stretching from FM 1417 to State Highway 91.
The first of those projects would stretch from FM 1417 to just south of Center Street with a estimated price tag of $57.5 million. The second stretch would cover areas from south of Center Street north to Hwy. 91 for $70 million, without any new interchanges.
However, a secondary item lists improvements to the pedestrian access bridge at Pecan Street that would increase the price to $76.4 million. Barnett said plans call for upgrades to all bridges along the route to bring them up to interstate and freight standards. This would address concerns regarding the height of this and other bridges that cross the highway.
A third project, scheduled for 2022, would see the reconstruction and expansion of Hwy. 75 from Hwy. 91 to U.S. Highway 82 with an estimated price of $52.6 million. The final priority project, scheduled for 2024, will extend the three-mile stretch from Hwy. 82 to Loy Lake Road. The plan calls for a new interchange with Blue Flame Road, with a total cost of $75.4 million.
This project includes more than $28 million in improvements to the intersection of Hwy. 75 and Hwy. 82. This will include additional frontage lanes, turn lanes and changes to ramps for the highways. These improvements are designed to improve congestion issues which can result in traffic being backed up onto Hwy. 82 at times, Barnett said, previously.
Barnett said improvements to the intersection are likely the biggest priority locally. However, he believes the other improvements would likely match closer with TxDOT’s priorities and give the SDMPO the greatest chance for additional funding.
“There is no doubt that the highest priority in Grayson County is the 75-82 intersection,” Barnett said. “But that doesn’t mean that is a priority to TxDOT.”
This final project includes changes to Spur 503 in Denison that would see it converted from a direct connect roadway to a traditional interchange. Barnett said the current layout is no longer needed under current traffic models. Additionally, the current design makes adjacent land difficult to market and develop, he said.
“It takes it away from what it used to be and into what it should be,” Barnett said. “It should be a nice connection into downtown.”
Other projects include expansion of the roadway from County Line Road to FM 902 and from there to FM 1417.
Barnett said this 10-year list of projects was originally discussed in February and submitted to the transportation commission in March, but the projects were not included in that version. Since then, Barnett said he has received instructions on how to submit projects for an August update. In the event the project is passed over again, Barnett said the SDMPO may get a third chance in March 2018.
In addition to reflecting an increased priority on Hwy. 75, the list also reflects changes in expected SDMPO funding. The initial proposal was made under the assumption that the SDMPO would receive $93 million in state category 2 funding. Due to decreased sales tax across the state, Barnett changed this estimate to $81 million in the most recent list of projects.
In addition to approving the list of projects, the policy board approved amendments to its four-year transportation improvements plan to reflect these new priority projects. In the event that the funding for Hwy. 75 is not approved in August, Denison Mayor Jared Johnson said the SDMPO would likely revert to its previous four-year plan when it starts work on the next plan, covering 2019 through 2022, this October.