The Texas Department of Transportation is asking for feedback on a nearly $400 million series of proposed projects aimed at improving safety along U.S. Highway 82. The transportation department held a public forum in Sherman Wednesday night to present ideas and get resident input on the plans ahead of future project development and planning.
Safety improvements to the highway started gaining traction over the last year following an independent study that ranked U.S. Highway 82 in Grayson County as the 26th most dangerous highway in the nation. The study prompted the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization and other groups to conduct their own studies, which confirmed safety issues related to freight traffic and highway design.
“It is a strong candidate to be completely redone, like the segment between Sherman and Bonham,” said Tim McAlavy, media relations for the TxDOT Paris District. “But in order to make sure we spend the money wisely, we had a safety study done and wanted to get people's input who lived along this stretch of road.”
Safety concerns along U.S. 82
Wednesday's presentations focused on the section of U.S. 82 between FM 1417 and the Cooke County Line. The proposed improvements would mirror ongoing work taking place on the highway between Sherman and Bonham, officials said.
Initial studies found that there were 445 crashes on the highway between 2014 and 2018. Of those crashes, 22 percent were severe in nature, which exceeds the statewide severe crash average for rural areas.
TxDOT attributed the high number of severe crashes to many factors including high posted speed limits, many closely-spaced driveways, intersecting roads and a high percentage of truck traffic. Officials said, these factors can impact a driver's reaction time and lead to wrecks and driver errors.
These and other factors have led to insufficient acceleration and deceleration lane lengths and multiple intersections that can impede mobility.
The study also found that left-turn bays and sight distance at median crossovers and intersections do not meet current design standards for highways.
In addition to these specific concerns, McAlavy said the four largest causes of wrecks in the Paris District can be seen along this stretch of U.S. 82. Among common causes are high speeds, distracted driving, driving while intoxicated and drifting out of a lane.
“This road has a higher-than average number of crashes and they can all be attributed to those four factors or a combination there of,” he said.
Proposed solutions to U.S. 82 safety concerns
TxDOT officials presented plans to improve the highway over the course of the next 20 years or more. These plans were broken out into three phases, with the first phase proposed to roll out over the next decade. The final phase calls for the conversion of U.S. 82 into an an access-controlled freeway.
The first phase of work, projected to cost $68 million, includes a mixture of minor upgrades and adjustments to current infrastructure along with the construction and reconfiguration of the highway and its service ramps.
Among the proposed changes to the highway are the inclusion of acceleration, deceleration and auxiliary lanes and the extension of left-turn lanes. The plans also call for the extension of the two-way service road from U.S. Hwy. 377 to Shawnee Trail.
The plans also call for work at median crossovers to expand turn-around areas. The first phase will also work to restrict intersecting roadways and driveways from having direct access to the main lanes of U.S. 82.
This phase will also have heavy focus on areas between the Cooke County Line and FM 901, which will see mill, seal and overlay work. High-friction surfacing is also recommended for areas between FM 901 and Gibbons Road.
The second phase, valued at $38 million, will pick up from where the first phase ended and is projected to see build out in 10 to 20 years. The two-way service road will be extended from Shawnee Trail to Riley Road while two-way service roads near FM 901 would be converted to one-way roads.
High-friction coating will be added to sections of road between the Cooke County line and FM 901 and from Gibbons Road to Fm 1417 in the second phase.
The ultimate solution to U.S. 82 safety
The final phase of work is expected to begin 20 years or more in the future and is expected to come with a price tag of nearly $240 million. This phase would see the full build out of the highway as a access-controlled freeway with grade-separated interchanges.
This phase will see further improvement to interchanges at State Highways 56 and 289, U.S. Hwy. 377, FM 901 and FM 1417. New interchanges are proposed for Noland/Riley Road, Spalding Road, Blythe/Hazelwood Road, Gibbons Road and Lamberth Road.
The remaining two-way frontage roads will be converted to one-way streets and new frontage is expected to be developed.
Following meetings this week, McAlavy said the project will enter into a public comment phase, which is expected to take between one to two months. From there, TxDOT will confer with consultants of the project and consider public input before modifying and updating plans.
Once the plans are revised, McAlavy said TxDOT may decide to have a second phase of public input, but said the project is still likely a year away from being ready.