Portions of U.S. Highway 75 see more freight and truck traffic than Interstate 35 in Cooke County according to a recent traffic study conducted by the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization. The results come as the regional planning organization has focused its efforts on increasing the capacity and effectiveness of the freight corridor.
The topic came up Wednesday as a part of the MPO’s Freight Advisory Committee meeting where representatives from the county, area cities and area industrial employers discussed the results of the traffic count while also briefly discussing other freight needs, including parking for freight trucks.
“We are also just under I-30,” SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said.
The study and focus on the U.S. 75 corridor comes amid increased efforts to have the roadway designated as an interstate. These efforts have included the closure of what county officials have described as “the gap” — a nearly four-mile stretch of roadway that is the only segment of the highway in Texas that is not to interstate standards.
This effort will involve the expansion of the roadway into a six-lane, divided highway with improvements and alterations to the highway’s ramps alongside other safety improvements. The project has seen local support over the past year with local cities and Grayson County itself contributing to the effort financially.
Barnett described the highway as a major corridor for area industry, with nearly half of all industrial employers in the area located within two miles of the highway and one-third within one mile.
“U.S. 75 is really a critical freight asset to the region, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone,” consultant Elizabeth Welch said.
The recent traffic count was conducted at four points across the corridor in Grayson County, including a location just north of the intersection of U.S. 75 and U.S. Highway 82 and another along the Oklahoma border. Barnett said the counts were conducted over multiple days, with a recount conducted as poor weather skewed the numbers on a day in March.
Welch said that the location near U.S. 82 saw the most traffic from overall vehicles and freight trucks with 70,000 and over 7,000, respectively. On an average day, the consultants estimated that the location could see between 6,500 and 8,000 freight vehicles pass by.
Likewise, a location to the south also saw significant truck traffic. Officials attributed this likely to traffic coming from or going to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
The consultants took the opportunity to gather input from local stakeholders on a series of projects aimed at improving the highway for freight traffic. Among these were two that would expand U.S. 75 to six lanes from the Collin County line to FM 1417 where the gap project is expected to begin.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said focus is currently on the first phase of the project and will expand from the county line nine miles north to FM 902. Magers said he is currently working alongside the Texas Transportation Commission on the $50 million project, and it likely will involve a local match of funds. Magers said the project is currently in its infancy but is expected it to be ready to move forward by 2024.
“My goal is to have a six-lane, divided road from County Line to 82 within about six years,” he said.
Officials also briefly discussed the need for additional freight parking in the area as a part of ongoing research by the Texas Department of Transportation on the statewide need. Representatives said areas that are particularly inundated with trucks include parking lots near the 75/82 intersection and major industries including Tyson.
Representatives discussed the need for a dedicate truck stop or rest area in Grayson County, but no formal action was taken on the topic.
Barnett said the next phase of work on the project will come as the studies are finalized and officials can turn their attention to other aspects of freight including rail traffic.
Wednesday’s discussions were led by consultants with Cambridge Systematics, who worked with the MPO on the recent studies.
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter. He can be reached at MHutchins@HeraldDemocrat.com.