The city of Sherman approved $20 million in bond funding for road improvements, including funding for work on FM 1417 and the closure of “the gap” on U.S. Highway 75. That term has been used by local officials to describe the four-mile stretch of the highway in Grayson County that is not up to interstate standards.

“It is not about maintenance to existing roads,” Sherman Director of Engineering Clint Philpott said of the road projects slated to be covered by the funds. “It is about being proactive and ensuring they can handle future traffic, and by that, I mean in one to two years from now.”

The issuing of bonds comes as the city and other local entities have pledged funds toward the project in an effort to leverage additional funding for Hwy. 75 improvements from the Texas Department of Transportation. In September, Grayson County issued its first debt in nearly 25 years to help finance the closure of “the gap,” improvements to the Hwy. 75-U.S. Highway 82 intersection and other projects.

Philpott said about $8 million will go toward “the gap” project. In total, the project, which will include expanding the highway to six lanes from FM 1417 to State Highway 91, will cost about $168 million.

An additional $3 million will be invested in TxDOT road projects, Philpott said. Among these projects is a $2 million widening of FM 1417 to a four-lane divided roadway from State Highway 56 to Hwy. 82.

“As it gets busier, having that continuous left turn lane is not safe,” Philpott said.

Philpott said there have been several projects along the roadway recently, including ongoing work just north of Hwy. 82. However many of these were maintenance projects and not to the scope of this work.

Other projects that will be funded by these funds focus on the FM 1417 corridor near the future site of Sherman High School. Among these is the construction of West Travis, which will link the high school site to Hwy. 75. Philpott said two of the four phases of the work have been completed, but right-of-way concerns delayed another.

“The high school is a major contributor for this growth,” Philpott said. “That is the specific reason we are seeing a lot of growth in that area.”

Another project will see Moore Street expanded from a two-lane county road to fit the expected needs of the city. This will include curb and gutter work, Philpott said.

City officials received 10 responses for the bond debt once bids were opened Monday morning. The winning bid, with a 3.07 percent true interest cost, was submitted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Bond counsel Gary Kimball said this is the most responses Sherman has received for its bond debts, attributing it to favorable market conditions.

“The market has continued to rally throughout the year and the city is the benefactor of that,” he said.

Only one member of the public spoke out regarding the bond debt during the public hearing. Ronald L. Aycock expressed concerns about the posting of city notices for meetings and other city actions, including the issuance of debt. Aycock also expressed concern that the city is issuing debt without knowing the full price of the project.

City officials said Sherman follows all guidelines for posting of public notices for meeting and that it had published intent to issue the debt more than 31 days ago. With regard to the cost of the projects, city officials said they have engineering estimates, but the full cost of the project will not be known fully until it is put out for bid.