The Denison Development Alliance approved just over $67,000 in funding for upgrades and the expansion of Helen Drive during a meeting Monday afternoon. DDA officials said plans for the upgrades call for the extension of the roadway by about 300 feet to increase and reroute access to the Ruiz Foods plant, located on Texoma Drive.

DDA President Tony Kaai said the improvements come as the food manufacturer has taken steps to expand parking and accessibility as it continues to expand and grow. Recently, Ruiz moved forward with nearly $1 million in improvements to the Ruiz facility that added additional roadways, new entrances and parking to the site.

“These improvements are important to Ruiz as they add circulation, parking and transportation at this new distribution system,” he said.

Helen Drive, which travels east and west along the southern border of the Ruiz plant was originally built to service what was once a Pillsbury plant. Kaai said the largest piece of the improvement project will be to extend the roadway by about 300 feet, attaching it to the rear portion of the Ruiz plant.

As a part of a separate project, the city also recently improved and repaired portions of the road. However, as this second project would mostly benefit Ruiz, Kaai said it fell under the purview of the DDA.

Previously, both employees and semitrailer trucks would enter the facility via State Highway 84. However, as the food manufacturer continued to expand its facility, production and workforce this proved to be a safety hazard, Kaai said.

“With this road improvement agreement with the Denison Development Alliance, it will be possible for trucks to enter and exit our facility by accessing Helen Drive,” Brian Miller, senior supply chain vice president for Ruiz Foods, said in an emailed statement. “Our goal is to bring a higher degree of safety for all traffic traveling in front of our facility on Highway 84,”

Initial estimates for the project called for an $80,000 budget, however, Kaai said estimated Monday morning that estimates had dropped to about $67,000 with the elimination of a small segment of roadway that was deemed unnecessary for Ruiz access.

When the item was put to vote and discussion there was little conversation on the request with former Denison Mayor Robert Brady voicing his approval for the project.

“If one of our major employers is making this kind of investment, it seems like a no-brainer to me,” he said.

With the approval in place, Kaai said he expects work on the project to start in the next few days.