The snarl of rush-hour traffic can become headache-inducing, or lead to crashes in the rush on local roadways. As a result, one proposed project will look to abate congestion and enhance pedestrian safety along two main thoroughfares if its funding comes through.
The Memorial Heights Reinvestment Zone (MHRZ)/TIRZ 5 has recently put in an application for federal funds that would support a TIRZ 5 CIP road reconstruction project along both Durham and North Shepherd Drive. The proposed project – which remains solely in the application phase – would purportedly run from north of the bridge over White Oak Bayou (around 6th Street, though that location is not yet fixed) to the 610 Loop.
“We are making applications into the transportation improvement projects coming out through a federal allocation of money for local transportation projects,” said Sherry Weesner, administrator and president of the MHRZ/TIRZ 5. “If we don’t get that funding, then that project will be delayed; but should we get the funding, we will then start detailed design work – but construction would still be a couple of years off.”
Weesner said multiple projects are put in at once, and the application/approval process remains ongoing.
“There are many projects in the area that are all hoping to be successful,” she said.
However, that has not stopped some residents from weighing in on the potential idea.
“I think Shepherd and Durham have both undergone a metamorphosis of late; and when combined with the high accident accounts those two streets have experienced, it seems like this reconstruction of this stretch is a really good idea,” said Mark Klein, president of Super Neighborhood 12, which represents Candlelight Oaks, Garden Oaks, Candlelight Plaza, Shepherd Park Plaza and other central northwest neighborhoods in the local area.
According to a presentation from Weesner at the August SN 12 council meeting, Durham has a crash rate nearly double the statewide mark, while Shepherd possesses a crash rate more than doubling the statewide rate.
Weesner told The Leader that as roadway reconstruction, the applied-for project would seek to improve the pedestrian realm as well as the turning sections of major intersections along Durham and Shepherd, which is where many of the incidents occur according to multiple studies done on the two thoroughfares.
“We’re actually over capacity in lanes, but under capacity in turning lanes,” she said. “[The proposed plan calls] to re-arrange the space so that we end up with three truly through lanes – we currently don’t have that. Plus, we’ll have turning bays at the corners where turning is necessary.”
The plan would also add bike lanes along both streets. The intent is for those to be separated, but Weesner noted that decision ultimately rests with the city at the process’s conclusion. Currently, the drainage storm sewers are not up to standard, so those would also be brought up to standard as well, should funding come through.
“It’s a fully complete project replacing the infrastructure along those two corridors and bringing them all up to the current standard,” she said.
According to Klein, feedback has been fairly positive on the project’s potential benefits should it come to fruition – The Shepherd Forest Civic Club (which also attended the meeting) has even sent a letter of support for the project.
“A big part of this is improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The area has undergone a pretty interesting change, so enhancing the safety there should be an enormous benefit to the people living nearby,” Klein said.
“Coupling the right hand turn lanes with some of the safety features to improve traffic flow and enhancing safety should no doubt be a benefit of the community. In the end, it really feels like it’s a reconstruction that will enhance the travel along these stretches.”
Additionally, he said the potential project is of significant interest to the residents of Super Neighborhood 12, as Durham and Shepherd remain main thoroughfares for many of them.
“What I took away from the meeting is that while there would be construction pains, in the long run people believe this will be a beneficial project,” he said of the August meeting when Weesner presented the proposed reconstruction. “People might be worried because it goes from four lanes to three lanes – people think that if you add lanes you decrease traffic flow, but multiple studies shown that if you build it, they will come. Losing a lane of traffic to a right-hand turn lane and cyclists is probably the biggest concern people have over a project like this, but we didn’t really get much pushback.”
Anyone seeking more information on the proposed project can reach out to the MHRZ/TIRZ 5 at email@example.com.