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SDMPO talks consultant for growth

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Traffic flows along Loy Lake Road Friday morning. The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization's Technical Advisory Committee is recommending that the group hire a consultant to help draft the latest update to one of its growth projection models.

The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization's may soon have a consultant to assist in drafting one of the group's backbone planning documents.

The MPO's technical advisory board is recommending that it enter into a $165,000 contract with Alliance Transportation Group for work on the update to its transportation demand model. The document outlines projected future growth that is then used for future transportation planning.

"We use this tool to predict where we will have traffic congestion in the future so we can make informed decisions on where we should spend our money," SDMPO Director Clay Barnett said.

The planning model is used in projections that are utilized in other plans and documents used not only by the MPO but by the state in its own projections on growth and transportation needs.

Previously, MPO officials have said that documents and demographics like the demand model are a way for the MPO to show expected growth and have these numbers used in state planning. Barnett previously said that this can be an important tool for areas like Texoma that are in high-growth corridors as the expected growth may  surpass historic models, which are a common predictor.

"Basically, what we do is we estimate the population growth over the next 25 years, distribute it across the county and that gets distributed back down to the census blocks," he said this week. "Then that is translated onto our local roads that we input in our models so you can get an idea where traffic is today, five years from now and 25 years from now."

The update comes after the previous update was completed earlier this year after nearly two-and-a-half years of development. Barnett said that the model came in after the MPO's 25-year plan was approved, meaning it does not have have the benefit of these models.

With that in mind, Barnett said he wanted to start early in the planning for the next update.

"It takes a lot of time at the state level to do these," he said.

When the project was put out to bid, four consulting agencies submitted proposals, including Cambridge Systematics, who previously worked with the MPO on its freight mobility plans.

However, Barnett said Alliance was given the edge due to its experience with the MPO's model and its work with Texas on state-level planning.

The next step for the consulting agreement will come next month when it is presented to the MPO policy board for approval.