As studies on road freight come to a close, the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization is turning its attention to the region’s freight rail infrastructure. The MPO approved entering into a $130,000 contract with Cambridge Systematics to conduct a study on Grayson County’s freight network and its needs.

As the region continues to grow, and traffic on area road infrastructure increases, rail will become an increasingly important part of the freight network, SDMPO Executive Director Clay Barnett said. By increasing rail use and infrastructure, local transportation officials can help reduce traffic congestion for other road transportation.

“It (rail) is not as large as a component as we’d like it to be,” Barnett said. “Especially as we grow, we are going to need to haul more of our freight by rail to avoid putting more and more

Many industrial and manufacturing employers utilize rail over truck freight to move both finished products and raw materials. Kent Sharp, president of the Sherman Economic Development Corp, said about 1 in 10 industrial and manufacturing prospects require rail service and connectivity.

“Rail is super important to those who utilize it,” Sharp said. “There are just some things that can’t be put on a truck and transported.”

Sharp said several local industrial employers have rail connectivity, including J.P. Hart Lumber, Kaiser Aluminum and Progress Rail Services, among others. Without adequate rail infrastructure, he said the region could lose out on these and other manufacturers, in addition to any future business that relies on rail freight.

This will be the third phase of work on the MPO’s freight mobility plan, following a generalized overview of road freight and a second phase dedicated to U.S. Highway 75. The second phase of the study found that US 75 in Grayson County sees more traffic than portions of Interstate 30 in Hunt County.

These efforts coincided with efforts to get the highway designated as an interstate and a successful push to have the highway designated as a freight corridor.

One of the unique aspects of rail compared to other transit is that it is privately owned, which can make funding for improvements complicated and more difficult. However, the study will hopefully give the MPO the tools and information it needs to approach railroads regarding the regions needs in the future, Barnett said.

Barnett said that he expects that this will be the final piece of of the freight study, Barnett said he sees opportunities to look into other major freight corridors in the region, although in a different way. Specifically, Barnett said he wants to look into freight traffic along U.S. Highway 82 and U.S. Highway 69. However, studies of these roads would be from a state-wide standpoint and not a focused, localized study, he said.