The groundbreaking ceremony for the nearly $160 million “gap” project on U.S. Highway 75 took place Wednesday. Though work on the actual project will not start until the new year, the final step before construct was necessary for the project that will upgrade the one section of U.S. Highway 75 in Texas that is not currently at interstate standards.

The project will see extensive work to the ramp system, a widening to six lanes, and a reworking of the intersection between U.S. Hwy. 75 and Hwy. 82, a four-mile gap of road. Earlier this fall, the Texas Department of Transportation approved a contract with Zackry Construction for the project with an-800 day timetable.

“By moving (Hwy.) 75 into the 21st Century, ‘The Gap Project’ will ensure that as Sherman continues to grow, we don’t fall victim to the traffic headaches of the Metroplex,” Sherman Mayor David Plyler said at the groundbreaking event.

TxDOT Paris District Engineer Noel Paramanantham said the project is currently slated to officially begin work in mid January, but this would be dependant on clear weather.

“We hate to shift traffic when there is a chance for ice, snow or poor weather,” Paramanantham said.

The main section of road that will be improved stretches from FM 1417 north to State Highway 91. In January, crews will start work on the 1.5 miles of roadway surrounding West Travis Street. Current plans call for bridgework that will connect FM Travis to new roadway built across the highway.

This segment will allow for additional connectivity to the future Sherman High School site once it opens in time for the 2020 school year. Paramanatham said this is a milestone segment of the project that he hopes to have completed by September 2020.

“The school district said it was critical to them because of school bus travel east and west,” Paramanantham said.

The second phase of construction, which is expected to take place in fall 2020, will cover the next 1.5 miles of roadway north on Hwy. 75. At the same time crews are expected to begin work at the intersection of Hwy. 75 and Hwy/ 82.

Plans for the intersection call for changes to the ramps on both highways to allow drivers more time to maneuver while approaching the intersection. The service roads will also be expanded to include three lanes.

The segment at Hwy. 75 and Hwy. 82 could prove to be logistically difficult due to the high traffic along both corridors. Paramanantham said crews would likely work mainly at night and off-peak hours to have the least impact to traffic. The segment will also have one of the longest construction times, with current estimates ranging from 12 to 18 months.

“They will have to piece meal it to keep that traffic flowing,” Paramanantham said.

Another section that will see significant traffic control changes is the segment along Lamar, Houston and Washington. The project calls for the bridges at the three intersections to be removed and replaced with a single, 1.5-mile bridge.

During the early part of construction, Washington will remain open as an active detour while the bridgework continues along the other two streets. Washington will then be closed and traffic will be allowed along Lamar and Houston once the first segment is completed.

As the project approaches, and throughout construction, TxDOT will release updated diagrams and public information releases to the public, Paramanantham said.