CLOSING THE GAP: US 75 expansion halfway complete

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
As work on US Highway 75 enters its third year, officials with the Texas Department of Transportation said the project is running on schedule.

As work on US Highway 75 has entered its third year, and the project is on track to wrap up by fall 2023. The plan for the $155 million gap project — the largest in the history of the Texas Department of Transportation Paris District — is to widened the roadway across a four-mile stretch previously nicknamed "the gap," alongside providing service road improvements, ramp changes and a restructuring of the intersection with US Highway 82.

As of January, the project has reached the halfway point and according to officials is currently on schedule despite some recent setbacks.

"We are on track and on schedule right now despite some weather delays recently," Paris District spokesperson Tim McAlavy added that contractors have also seen personnel issues due to the ongoing pandemic. "They are still saying our substantial completion date — baring any weather delays or issues — in early November of next year, 2023."

While January marks the second anniversary of construction on the road project, discussions and planning for the improvement started about five years ago, shortly after Clay Barnett joined the Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization as its executive director.

It was no secret that the highway, which had been designed decades ago for speeds less than those that are travelled today, was in need of work. However, resources were limited.

"There has always been a recognition that US 75 needed help financially. It needed to be rebuilt, but we didn't have a way to pay for it," Barnett said. 

Following a TxDOT meeting in January 2017, Barnett began to look at ways to leverage local transportation dollars to encourage TxDOT to accept the project and provide additional funding. These efforts included work by multiple elected officials, local representatives for the Paris District, and area municipalities who provided local match funds.

It was around this time that the project received the nickname the "gap" project from area officials. As part of the improvements to the highway, crews would bring a stretch of the roadway — the only section of the road in Texas not at interstate standards — up to modern specifications. Much needed improvements to the intersection of highways 82 and 75 was also added to the scope of work.

TxDOT officials said Lamar and Houston streets are expected to close later this year for work on the US Highway 75 project.

McAlavy said the project hit one of its first major milestones earlier this past summer with the opening of the West Travis Street bridge. The new new crossing was a major focus both the city of Sherman and school district as it provided additional connectivity and route to the new Sherman High School site within a year of the school's opening. The area is also expected to be a major focus area for development in the near future.

The next year will see several other portions of the project wrap up and previously closed roads will reopen for traffic. Center Street, which has been closed for a significant period of time, is expected to reopen in April while the new Washington Street Underpass will open in May. Washington Street proper is currently slated for an August opening, McAlavy said.

Work near Lamberth road is also expected to be completed during the spring.

The completion of these projects will lead into the next set of closures as crews shut down portions of Houston and Lamar for work. In December, Paris District Engineer Noel Paramanantham told the Sherman City Council that this stage will likely be shorter than previous work which was more complicated.

As work continues to creep north, it is setting the stage for what is expected to be the final portion of the project: the US 82 and 75 intersection. Prep work and early construction along the intersection began early in the project, but McAlavy said this will likely be the past phase to finish.

Crews are preparing to begin night work along the intersection and nearby Loy Lake Road in the new future, he said.

While the project is expected to be substantially completed by late 2023, McAlavy said some work, including clean up and landscaping, will continue into early 2024.