The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization recently received an update on proposed changes that could reduce the organization’s Category 2 funding through the Texas Department of Transportation from $7.9 million per year to about $6 million per year.
The update comes following discussions and a vote by the 25 members of the Association of Texas Metropolitan Planning Organizations, also known as TEMPO, regarding the allocation of Category 2 funds between the organizations. Following nearly a year of debates, TEMPO voted to recommend the approval of a formula based on recommendations by the SDMPO.
“We are, of course, not receiving as much money as we are currently are,” SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said. “But we are receiving the most from that series of distributions that was created.”
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers, who serves on the SDMPO Policy Board, asked whether the reduction in funding would affect any projects, including work along FM 691 and Spur 503, that have already been placed in the SDMPO’s ongoing plans. Barnett said the changes, if approved, would not go into effect until after 2022 and would not affect these or other upcoming projects.
Despite passing this funding hurdle, Barnett said there are several other factors that could affect the future allocations for the SDMPO. Among the larger factors is the upcoming 2020 census, which Barnett said could result in the creation of two additional MPOs based on population. Additionally, there have been calls for the merger of some MPOs into larger organizations.
Finally, there will be two legislative sessions that could also lead to changes before the proposed allocations are scheduled to go into effect.
Talks on adjusting the distribution rates started in late 2016 following moves by six of the larger MPOs to put more weight on population or other criteria that would favor more urban areas. While this would increase the share for many larger communities, Barnett said it would adversely impact many of the smaller areas, including the Sherman-Denison area.
Barnett said the proposed distribution was more balanced and based a variety of criteria. Prior to the negotiations, the previous allocations were based on eight weighted criteria, including congestion. Previously, Barnett said a focus on almost any of the other criteria would result in a funding increase for the SDMPO.
Since discussions in mid-2017, Barnett said several other plans had been proposed. Of those, Barnett described the “San Antonio plan” — a formula based heavily on congestion — as the worst scenario for the SDMPO. The discussions culminated in a June meeting dedicated entirely to deciding a preferred allocation.
“After four hours, right before lunch, we settled on the consensus we settled on roughly a year ago,” Barnett said.
Following the vote, Barnett said the recommendation will be taken to the Texas Transportation Commission, who oversees TxDOT, for final approval.