Shepherd-Durham project back on track

First, I got this in my inbox, from the Mayor’s office.

Mayor John Whitmire and the Memorial Heights TIRZ have reached a compromise on the design of the Shepherd Durham Phase II project that maintains the terms of the Federal Grant, preserves general mobility, and creates transportation options while enhancing drainage and wastewater infrastructure.

This latest development was data driven utilizing an updated traffic analysis and INRIX Trip Analytics. The Mayor appreciates the TIRZ providing additional data to move the project forward for the benefit of Houstonians. The next step is for City Council to approve an interlocal agreement in the coming weeks.

The project preserves the standard widths of general-purpose lanes on Shepherd and Durham, and the number and width of these lanes for two blocks of 11th Street. It also re-establishes four lanes on 11th Street for one block east of Shepherd, while adding bike lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks for the entire project. Additionally, left turn lanes are strategically included at specific locations based on data analysis to improve traffic flow.

See here for the background. My initial reaction to this was that it sounded positive. I then got this in my inbox, from the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority (MHRA):

The Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority (MHRA) expresses gratitude and support for Mayor Whitmire’s decision to proceed with Phase 2 of the Shepherd Durham Reconstruction Project. We appreciate the administration’s willingness to work with MHRA to address concerns and to maintain the project’s benefits and grant funding.

The Shepherd Durham project promises significant benefits for a transportation corridor that has not seen any attention since the 1960s. Upgraded storm sewers will address issues caused by undersized and failing lines, while new water and wastewater utilities will ensure reliable service. Modern sidewalks, dedicated bicycle lanes, and improved intersection design will significantly reduce accidents and improve accessibility and mobility for all users. This investment also supports economic growth by facilitating commercial development in the corridor.

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.

For weekly construction updates, visit

A subsequent followup from the MHRA included this additional information:

Based on the improved traffic information provided by the INRIX Origin/Destination data and our discussions with the mayor, we have updated our plans to better serve the needs of the community. Key changes to the project include:

  • Shepherd and Durham Drives: The plans will now include three, 11-foot through lanes on both Shepherd and Durham drives, replacing the current design of three lanes of eleven, ten and eleven feet wide.
  • 11th Street: The updated plans will retain two through lanes in each direction between Shepherd and Durham, significantly enhancing the level of service at this critical intersection by nearly 50%. Additionally, 11th Street will transition to one lane in each direction at Dorothy.

The TIRZ will conduct an additional traffic signal analysis 6-12 months after the project’s completion and will provide this analysis to the City to ensure the best optimization for final traffic signal adjustments.

Basically, it sounds like the project will continue in a very similar form. There are some positive reactions on Twitter, and in the late-breaking Chron story.

Marlene Gafrick, a senior adviser to Whitmire for transportation and planning, said the changes will keep it all within the current right-of-way, improve mobility in the area and will not require a total redesign of the project.

“This is data-driven,” Gafrick said, noting that a new traffic study showed where turn lanes and preserving two lanes in each direction along 11th were needed.

An important change was maintaining that all three lanes of both streets will be 11 feet wide, saying the widths were important for maintaining speeds and safety for drivers, Gafrick said.

The Memorial Heights TIRZ, which planned and managed the $100 million project to redo the streets from Washington Avenue to Loop 610, said the agreement allows for needed work to happen.

“The Shepherd Durham project promises significant benefits for a transportation corridor that has not seen any attention since the 1960s,” the authority’s board said in a statement.

Gafrick said city and TIRZ officials “are pushing” to keep the start of construction in late 2024 or 2025.

TIRZ officials said they would have more specific design details later this week. Whitmire’s office said an interlocal agreement would come to City Council for agreement in the coming weeks.


Agreement also ends what was a sometimes bitter back and forth where many in the community accused Whitmire of stymying a long-planned project with one phase already complete simply because commuters raised objections.

Those who supported the project and worried the pause could take the middle out of a much larger redesign of Shepherd and Durham applauded the progress.

“This project is in the community’s best interest,” District C Council Member Abbie Kamin said. “Thats why we fought so hard for it.”

Kamin credited the work on data and more input for preserving the project’s benefits while keeping focused on making sure funding for the work was not in jeopardy. A protracted pause could have risked money for the work.

“I appreciate the mayor’s deference to the data and the overwhelming neighborhood support for this project,” Kamin said. “His team worked hard to get to today.”


“It’s great to see the mayor acknowledge the extraordinarily broad community support this transformative project enjoys,” said Joe Cutrufo, executive director of the advocacy group BikeHouston.

I’m basically happy with this outcome. I could have done without the drama, but I’m a results guy, and this is a good result. I want to add one more data point to all this, which is a before-and-after view of the streets in question that was sent to me recently. If you’ve driven along Shepherd or Durham between 11th Street and the Loop, you know what I’m talking about, but if this is not your normal turf or if it’s been a minute since you’ve been there, take a look at what the area looked like before construction, and now after construction, from March and April. I don’t know about you, but I want to live in a city that has the streets from those After photos. We’ll be getting more like that now that this construction will continue. Kudos all around. Houston Landing, which has another positive reaction to the agreement, has more.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Shepherd-Durham project back on track

  1. voter_worker says:

    The “after” photographs are borderline utopian in terms of high-level street tree design: large planting beds, trees properly spaced, no overhead wires. Also these trees are already medium sized and not saplings that will take years to fill out.

  2. Bill Shirley says:

    If *hitmire wants to call this a win, I’m fine with that. Thoughtful requests for details could have been less drama-laden. Unfortunately, i don’t think it’s a matter of a learning curve. He’s been in elected public service (though moving from legislative to executive) for 30+ years. I expect to see more heavy handedness in the future.

    I travel this corridor both in car and on bike weekly. I’ve been seeing all the improvements. I’m so eager for some completion, but I know there’s more time to come.

    Additionally, I often travel the corridor “late” at night. The area (and most of the heights) is like an abandoned town or at least a sleepy one. I believe the effectiveness of corridors like Shepherd/Durham/11th/Studewood could benefit from their signals cycling to flashing lights. They don’t need to be a nuisance to those who work while we sleep.

  3. C.L. says:

    ‘F’ John Whittier and the horse he rode in on. What a ridiculous power play on his part. If he wants to play Traffic Cop and improve the mobility of his constituents in the Heights, howabout he address the pavement clusterf*** that is 20th Street between Durham and North Main ?

  4. The Public says:

    You do realize many modern cities are *already* implementing these Complete Streets projects, right? If not, then take a look around sometime. Younger workers (DINKs with $) want to live in modern urban environments that accommodate multimodal uses. If Houston fails to provide this option, these people will go elsewhere – which screws up Houston’s tax base. Y’all have to thing long-term.

Comments are closed.