The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Advisory Committee is recommending the approval of a contract with Cambridge Systematics for the drafting of the Grayson County Freight Mobility Plan. This comes just two month after portions of U.S. Highway 75 was designated as a critical freight corridor by the Texas Transportation Commission.

“We have reviewed and ranked the consulting teams for the Grayson County Freight Mobility Plan and it is apparent that Chambridge Systematics is the highest ranking firm,” SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said.

The next step will come when the SDMPO Policy Board takes action on awarding the $95,000 contract for the first phase of the plan.

With this upcoming plan, Barnett said consultants will look at ways that the region can improve its freight systems to make it more attractive to the freight industry itself. Rather than setting a timeline of goals, Barnett described the plan more as a point in time analysis that would look at the strengths and weaknesses of the system.

While major freight corridors will play a part of this, it will also include rail and air. While it may play a small part in the current freight network, Barnett said there is major potential in North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field.

The freight plan was recently discussed by the SDMPO in December following the announcement that Hwy. 75 from the Collin County line to State Highway 91 was designated as a critical freight corridor. Through this designation, the SDMPO was able to acquire the grant that made the plan possible.

In addition to providing funding for the plan, Barnett said the designation also makes the highway eligible for funds that could be used to bring a small section of roadway in Sherman up to interstate standards. This is the only segment of the roadway south of the Oklahoma border that is not at interstate standards.

This coincides with recent efforts by local officials to get the highway designated as an interstate, which also would bring in additional funding sources for highway maintenance and improvement.

This designation came as part of state efforts to make a Texas freight network plan. As part of the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known as the FAST Act, states are required to update or draft individual freight mobility plans that outline modern freight lines and paths in order to receive some federal funds.

Barnett said that Cambridge Systematics was the firm who helped draft and create the freight plan for Texas. With this work under its belt, Barnett said he felt confident that the firm had an understanding of Texas transportation that would help in creating the localized document.

“As far as their experience with our region and Texas as a whole, I would say say yes, this did (affect the decision),” Barnett said.

Barnett said the plan will be broken into two phases, and was bid as such by Cambridge Systematics. Currently, the SDMPO has received grant funding to cover the first phase of the project with plans to pursue the second phase for next year. Due to the terms of the grant, the project must be finished by October when it expires, Barnett said.