Officials with the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization received an update Wednesday on the drafting of a statewide freight plan, and the inclusion of more than 20 miles of U.S. Highway 75 as a critical freight corridor. With this designation, officials said this opens the door for the area to receive funding specifically intended for freight improvements.
“The Texas Transportation Commission adopted this freight mobility plan at their Nov. 16 meeting,” SDMPO Director Clay Barnett said during Wednesday’s meeting. “In that plan was the inclusion of U.S. Highway 75 all the way from the Collin County line all the way up to (Highway) 91.”
With this designation, Barnett said the segment of highway will be eligible for funding specifically for freight corridors. This comes as area officials look for ways to fund bringing a segment of the highway, stretching from FM 1417 to State Highway 91, up to interstate standards and for it to be designated as such.
“I think that any time (Hwy.) 75 gets any recognition for passengers or freight, it gives credence for the designation as an interstate,” he said.
Barnett said the designation of Hwy. 75 as a freight corridor represents 10-months of advocating by area officials and representatives. As a part of 2015’s Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known as the FAST Act, states were required to update or draft individual freight mobility plans to include modern freight paths.
Barnett said he attended a meeting in Arlington in February that was hosted by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, which also serves as an MPO, to discuss the update. During the meeting, Barnett learned that the majority of Hwy. 75 was not included in draft documents as a freight corridor.
“However, the Dallas North Tollway was (included), which didn’t make any sense to me whatsoever,” he said.
At the initial meeting, Barnett said officials with the Texas Department of Transportation did not have enough information or studies regarding Hwy. 75, but the topic was brought up at later meetings, leading to its inclusion in the final document.
For Grayson County, Barnett said the freight corridor falls into three segments. The first segment covers Hwy. 75 from the Collin County line to FM 1417 and is designated as a critical rural corridor. The second segment, which extends from FM 1417 to State Highway 91 is included as a critical urban corridor.
The third segment runs along SH 91 from Hwy. 75 north to Spur 503. Barnett said the final segment was designated by TxDOT due to the proximity of a rail station in the area that often handles freight.
Barnett said the designation of Hwy. 75 as a freight corridor is important for the region as it gives the area access to an additional funding it otherwise would not have access to. As part of the FAST Act, a portion of the state’s federal funding for transportation was specifically earmarked for freight transportation, Barnett said.
With this funding, Barnett said pressure would be taken off of the other funds that the SDMPO receives and it may be available for other projects. Barnett confirmed that these funds could also be used to upgrade the highway to interstate standards.
In the more immediate future, Barnett said this designation also allowed the SDMPO to receive a $95,000 grant to conduct a freight impact study throughout the county. Through this study, Barnett said he will look for improvements that can be made to make the region more attractive to the greater freight industry.
Barnett said he hopes to have a consultant in place for the study by February and the study itself to be completed by September 2018.