Local leaders are planning for the future of U.S. Highway 75.

Local leaders are planning for the future of U.S. Highway 75.

Officials with cities along the Highway 75 corridor gathered Wednesday to start work on what will become a 30-year master plan for the roadway. During the workshop, officials identified priorities including the intersection of Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 82 and ramp reversals in Denison.

"The community thrives because of the roadway," Larry Redden, vice president of consulting firm IEA, said. "Some would call it a ribbon of commerce."

Local municipalities, the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization and Texas Department of Transportation are partnering to develop the plan, and during Wednesday’s workshop, representative of each city identified their top priorities for the thoroughfare.

"The first phase is to identify and measure these (projects) and try to categorize them into a funding category," Redden said. "As the flow of revenue money comes in, we can go back in those categories and look at projects that have been pre-analyzed, preapproved by this group and the department of transportation and move quickly with those projects."

For the city of Sherman, improvements to the intersection of highways 75 and 82 are at the top of its list. As a way to improve traffic flow and congestion at the intersection, Sherman Public Works Director Clay Barnett proposed adding a direct connection between the roadways. This would allow motorists to transfer between the highways without having to exit onto the service road.

"I think anyone who has been through that intersection will agree that it needs it," Barnett said.

In exchange for this, Barnett said the city would consider giving up its direct connection to Highway 75 on Travis Street, which sees less traffic.

Other proposed improvements would help in the event of severe weather, including flooding and icy conditions.

"A lot of U.S. 75 in Sherman is in the 100-year floodplain," Barnett said, referring to floods in 2007 at Post Oak Creek that closed the roadway. "It essentially cut off the east and west sides of the city and made it impassable."

In late 2013 icy conditions caused other problems. Drivers were stranded on the highway near Texas Instruments due to the steep hill, which many vehicles could not climb in the icy conditions. Barnett said improvement to the roadway at the hill should be included.

Representatives for Denison placed their highest priority on a project that would reverse the locations of ramps approaching Crawford Street. It would be similar to the ongoing project at Morton Street. However, unlike Morton, which serves as a major commercial feeder, Crawford is a major connector for residential traffic, Denison City Manager Jud Rex said.

Other priority projects would improve connections with Spur 503 and FM 691. Rex paid particular attention to FM 691 as it serves as a primary thoroughfare for Grayson College, North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field, and Texoma Medical Center. The area around the intersection is also expected to grow with the development of Gateway Village and the Texoma Health Foundation Park on the west side of the roadway.

Mirroring Denison, representatives for the cities of Howe and Van Alstyne also recommended the inclusion of ramp reversals. Howe officials talked about safety concerns related to the exit at Haning Street, just before the entrance to the city’s Little League Baseball field. Some motorists attempt to quickly cross two lanes of traffic to enter the park creating a safety concern, officials said. Howe representatives also recommended new ramps and overpasses for ongoing and future residential development in the city.

Consulting Engineer Bob Johnson, representing the city of Van Alstyne, made a similar request for ramps between County Line Road and Van Alstyne Parkway.

Other regionwide improvements will address the role of the highway as a major freight corridor. Proposed updates would address clearance concerns for bridges and overpasses to bring the roadway up to modern standards, SDMPO Director Karl Welzenbach said.

Redden said he will take the information gathered during Wednesday’s workshop and begin crafting a plan. It will include estimated costs and a proposed timeline, he said.

"We are really going to be time phasing and cost phasing (the projects)," he said.

Redden plans to return to the SDMPO board in July with an update on the progress. Barring any delays, Redden said, the plan should take between six to eight months to complete.

Discussions on the improvements started nearly a year ago in the MPO’s advisory committee. After officials with the Paris District of TxDOT expressed interest in the project, a joint committee was formed, Welzenbach said in February.

The project gained momentum after two state propositions to increase funding for roadway improvement and maintenance projects were approved by voters in 2014 and 2015. TxDOT Paris District Engineer Paul Montgomery said he is uncertain how much state funding will be available for the improvements but said it is still important to start planning early.

"We’ve been given the authority to start development on these plans even if they aren’t funding yet," he said, highlighting the need to have projects "shelf ready" when funding is available.