Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation will hold a public meeting next week to unveil preliminary plans for $161 million of improvements to a 12-mile span of U.S. Highway 75. Officials will outline improvements that are designed to increase safety and decrease congestion while also bringing the road to interstate standards.

The meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday at the Sherman Municipal Building. Tim McAlavy, TxDOT Paris District public information officer, said the format will be a come-and-go open house with displays set up to provide information on the proposed project.

“(U.S. Highway) 75 is an aging roadway, and if it is going to keep up with population growth, business growth and freight traffic up and down the roadway we have to do something,” he said. McAlavy described the project as potentially the largest and most expensive in the Paris District in recent history, rivaling the expansion of Interstate-30, years ago.

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McAlavy said the focus area for the project will extend north for about 12 miles from FM 1417 south of Sherman to FM120 in Denison. Aspects of the project include widening the roadway to three lanes, each direction, for the entire length of the section, the addition of continuous frontage roads and additional U-turn lanes.

With these improvements, officials hope to bring the highway up to interstate standards. Throughout its length in Texas, all of Hwy. 75 meets these standards except for a small, three-mile stretch from FM 1417 to State Highway 91, often referred to as 'the gap.'

Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Clay Barnett said the only section of the project that has been formally funded is the closing of the gap, but officials want to have design and pre-construction work done for the remaining sections for when additional funding is acquired.

With the expansion of the roadway, McAlavy did not rule out the need by TxDOT to acquire additional right of way for the project, noting that it will be one of the topics discussed during the meeting.

Other improvements previously discussed in conversations about improvements to the roadway have included upgrading and modernizing the infrastructure to meet modern standards including changes to bridge height and rebuild of some on ramps, among other proposed improvements.

One of the largest sections of the project will likely be improvements to the intersection of Hwy. 75 and U.S. Highway 82 aimed at reducing congestion, backups onto the highway and other safety hazards. When the SDMPO first discussed a proposed set of improvements in early 2017, officials estimated that the project could cost more than $21 million. However, McAlavy said he could not comment on the price of this phase of the improvements, stating that it still under development and design.

During the 2017 discussions, SDMPO officials proposed moving back the on ramps for the roadway and addition additional maneuvering space to allow vehicles more time to get into a proper lane when approaching the intersection, among other changes.

Work on upgrading U.S. 75 started gaining traction in early 2016 when the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization and TxDOT started gathering local insight and priorities on any improvements that would take place on the roadway.

“What we are basically looking at for the (Hwy.) 75 corridor is breaking it up into manageable projects we can work on in the future,” then TxDOT Paris District Engineer Paul Montgomery said in 2016, emphasizing public input. “TxDOT does not want to just come into a community and tell them what we are going to do.”