Update: This story was updated to provide additional details about the width of vehicle lanes in the new plan compromise.

Houston Mayor John Whitmire and the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority have reached a compromise on a project to improve Shepherd and Durham drives that will allow the second phase of the project to continue.

What happened

The $115 million Shepherd-Durham project, which spans approximately 5 miles from the northern segment of Loop 610 to I-West, is a reconstruction project that includes reducing the number of traffic of lanes on each road from four to three, adding a protected shared-use path and installing sidewalks.

Phase I—from Loop 610 to West 15th Street—will be under construction through fall 2025. Work was scheduled to begin on Phase II of the project—from West 15th to I-10—in late 2024. However, in March, Whitmire placed all transportation projects that involve reducing the number of vehicle lanes or narrowing vehicle lanes under review.

Several Heights residents, along with Houston City Council District C representative Abbie Kamin, spoke out against the pause during city council sessions in May. The pause included halting progress on the Shepherd-Durham project, which Kamin said could potentially cause the loss of thousands of federal dollars that had already been approved for the existing plans.

The action taken

According to a June 4 news release from the Whitmire's office, Whitmire and the MHRA reached a compromise on the design of the project. The compromise will:
  • Maintain the terms of the federal grant
  • Preserve general mobility
  • Create transportation options
  • Enhance drainage and wastewater infrastructure
The scope of the project now includes:
  • Preserving the standard widths of general-purpose lanes on Shepherd and Durham and two blocks of 11th Street
  • Re-establishing four lanes on 11th Street for one block east of Shepherd
  • Adding bike lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks for the entire project
  • Installing strategically placed left-turn lanes at specific locations to improve traffic flow
According to MHRA officials, the new compromise will entail three 11-foot through lanes on both Shepherd and Durham. The previous plan called for three lanes, two of which would have been 11 feet wide and one of which would have been 10 feet wide.

On 11th Street, two through lanes will run in each direction at the between Shepherd and Durham drives, with those two lanes narrowing to one lane in each direction at Dorothy Street, just east of Shepherd.

The MHRA will conduct a traffic signal analysis around 6-12 months after the project's completion and provide an analysis to the city to make adjustments to signals as needed.

Quote of note

Officials with the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority thanked Whitmire in a June 4 statement for his decision to allow Phase II of the project to proceed.

"We appreciate the administration's willingness to work with MHRA to address concerns and to maintain the project's benefits and grant funding," the statement said. "We thank Mayor Whitmire for recognizing the importance of this project and for his dedication to addressing our city's infrastructure needs. MHRA looks forward to continued collaboration with the mayor's office, the Houston Public Works Department and all stakeholders as we move forward to deliver critical improvements efficiently and effectively."

Next steps

According to the news release, Houston City Council will need to approve an interlocal agreement to finalize the project, which is expected to take place in the coming weeks.