Wide-spread improvements to U.S. Highway 75 are currently slated to be completed by March 2023, officials with the Texas Department of transportation said this week. The $155 million series of projects will see the improvement to what has been referred to as "the gap" — a four-mile stretch of roadway that is not at interstate standards.

The improvements to U.S. Hwy. 75 have been a distant dream for many county and city officials for several years. Local transportation officials said the improvements were needed as the roadway — and many of its ramps — were not built for modern traffic patterns. Meanwhile, county officials noted the economic implications that a potential interstate would have on the region.

"We are on schedule for project completion of March 2023," said Noel Paramanantham, Paris District Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation. "There are various stages between now and then, but the contractor is progressing on schedule."

For the first phase of the improvements, crews started work on a connectivity project that could connect east and west Sherman with a new bridge at West Travis Street.

"As you can see, we started work on the southern end of ’The Gap’ project primarily around FM 1417," Paramanantham said. "Our goal has been to build the West Travis Street Bridge. We are focusing on that right and you can see the sub structure going up. We will be setting beams on that bridge in the next week or two. A few weeks after that, we will try to pull the slab that the traffic will drive on eventually."

The connectivity for the new West Travis Street has been a priority for both the city of Sherman and Sherman Independent School District. The road will provide new connectivity to the future Sherman High School along FM 1417. The city will gain additional connectivity to planned developments near the high school site.

The improvement would remove the current ramps for Travis Street and transition them into a more traditional intersection.

"All of that is going to change and now rather than merging with 75 you are actually going to go over 75 and you would then have the option to stop that the frontage road and take a left turn onto the FM 1417 intersection and then merge onto southbound 75," Paramanantham said.

Current timetables call for the bridge portion of the project to be completed by May 2021.

Meanwhile, another project that was slated to see work in 2021 has begun early. Paramanantham said crews have moved ahead to start preparations for improvements to the intersection of U.S. Highways 75 and 82.

"The contractor was able to identify elements of work that did not impact traffic at this time," he said.

Among the site preparations that have begun is the foundation work for a new U-turn bridge across US 82 that would allow drivers to change directions without going through the intersection.

When the U-turn bridges are in place, Paramanantham said that crews will move on to work on the inner lane of the bridge and work on the service roads.

Once the segment at West Travis is complete, Paramanantham said crews will begin on the next one-mile segment north of the bridgework. By splitting the project into one mile segments, crews will be able to prepare the service roads for increased traffic while main lanes are under construction. This will also limit how much time vehicles must travel on the service roads before diverting back into the highway.

Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.