SDMPO cuts scope of 4-year plan by $16.66M amid state crunch

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Sherman-Denison Planning Organization announced Tuesday that it plans to reduce spending in its four-year plan by nearly $16.66 million.

The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization is tightening its belt following statewide transportation budget cuts. The organization that oversees many roadway improvements across Grayson County said it is removing $16.66 million of roadway projects from the scope of its upcoming four-year plans.

The SDMPO announced Tuesday that it will have a public Zoom meeting at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 6 to discuss the proposed changes to its four-year Transportation Improvement Plan. 

"The state is having some budget issues and because of that we are having to cut some projects," SDMP Executive Director Clay Barnett said.

The cuts to SDMPO projects comes amid state budget shortfalls due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late November, the Texas Tribune reported that the shortfall is likely to be softer than the $4.6 billion deficit for the current biennium that was initially reported over the summer. However, the hit is still expected to be significant.

Barnett said he received notice that the plan's scope would need to be reduced on Friday. Despite this, there have been recent hints that cuts were coming.

"The chairman, Judge (Bill) Magers has made comments in two of the most recent policy board meetings about how we're likely going to have to make changes, so it wasn't a surprise to us," Barnett said.

Barnett said the projects that were cut from the current short-range plan include projects in Pottsboro, Gunter, Tom Bean, Howe, Whitesboro and two in Denison.

Construction will continue on U.S. Highway 75 Sherman this week.

Denison will have to wait a little longer for proposed improvements along FM 691 and FM 131. Two project, between  Texoma Parkway and Teresa Drive and between  691 and Seymore Bradley Road, were among the projects that were cut. The cuts also included improvements to State Highway 289 in Pottsboro and FM 121 in Gunter. 

While not cut from the plan, proposed bypasses around Howe and Tom Bean along FM 902, and frontage for U.S. Highway 82 in Whitesboro have been pushed back to 2024.

Barnett noted that the removing of these projects from the plan does not mean that the MPO does not intend to proceed with them in the future. Instead, they simply fall outside of the scope of the four-year plan. However, he did not give any indication as to when these projects may move forward.

"It all depends on how the state economy does," he said.

The proposed changes are not expected to impact work that is taking place along the U.S. Highway 75 corridor or related projects that are expected to take place in coming years. Improvements from FM 902 to the Collin County Line, along with improvements between Hwy. 82 and Loy Lake Road, are still slated to take place in the next four years and 10 years, respectively.