Texoma resident recently got a new look at planned improvement for the U.S. Highway 75 corridor that will bring it up to modern design standards.
The Texas Department of Transportation held the second public meeting on the more than $141 million of improvements to the U.S. Highway 75 corridor, which will include the widening of the roadway to six lanes for a four-mile stretch of highway from FM 1417 to State Highway 91. Locally dubbed “the gap,” this section is the only part of the roadway in Texas that is not built to interstate standards, officials said.
“We are going to make it a much safer roadway,” TxDOT Paris District Public Information Officer Tim McAlavy said. “Let’s face it, it is an aging roadway and it has maintenance issues.”
Other improvements will include the creation of a continuous frontage road for the highway and a redesign for its exit and entrance ramps, McAlavy said. This is the first phase of a $161 million project that will extend improvements north to the Morton Street intersection in Denison.
McAlavy said the improvements will also focus on three key intersections along the Hwy. 75 corridor: FM 1417, Travis Street and the U.S. Hwy. 82 interchange. The improvements at U.S. Hwy. 82 will include a widening of the service road and relocation of the highway’s ramps to allow more time and space for motorists to maneuver while approaching the intersection. Thursday’s meeting represented the second large meeting over the proposed improvements to the highway following a similar meeting in March. McAlavy estimated that about 65 people attended the second meeting.
“Overall, it all seemed pretty positive,” McAlavy said. “The people seemed to think it was overdue.”
TxDOT Paris District Engineer Noel Paramanantham said the designs presented at the meeting were largely similar to plans presented during the first meeting, but did include several changes that were suggested during that previous meeting. Among those changes were improvements to the on-ramps near FM 1417.
Paramanantham said the original schematics featured northbound on-ramps closer to Travis Street, however after public input, this ramp was moved further south to allow faster access from FM 1417. Paramanantham said the exit ramp was removed, and will be added in the future as traffic needs dictate.
The updated plans also saw the return of the direct connection between the highway and Texoma Parkway. Paramanantham said the original plans saw the intersection redesigned as a standard intersection, but public comment allowed for the feature to be incorporated into the new designs.
The project, which has been an ongoing in design and planning for over a year, saw TxDOT working alongside area organizations including the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization. SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett voiced his approval for the project, stating that he thinks it will increase safety on the roadway, especially in areas near downtown Sherman.
Barnett said the ramps on the highway in this area are too short for modern traffic and were designed in the 1950s for traffic going about 45 mph. As an example, Barnett highlighted the ramp outside Piner Middle School as an example.
“These improvements will reduce the number of ramps, but will also lengthen the remaining ones to increase safety,” he said. “If you look at these ramps, they are great if you are driving at 45 (mph), but no so great when you are driving at 60 mph.
Barnett noted that talks on the improvements saw traction recently when it was proposed that this could pave the way for the highway to be considered for interstate designation.
“Before, we couldn’t even have the discussion,” he said. “Now at least this opens the doors to have those conversations.”
Paramanantham said he expects the project to be ready to be put out for bid in late-summer 2019, with construction expected early the next year. While he did not have a set time frame for the project, Paramanantham said projects of this scale typically take about three years to complete through phased construction.