Heights-area construction project put on pause, risking $40M in federal funding

Wednesday, May 1, 2024
City pauses construction in Heights, risking federal funding
Construction on Shepherd and Durham could be there to stay for some time as the project has been paused by city officials.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston city officials have halted multiple city projects, including the construction work on Shepherd and Durham drives in the Heights area.

Community officials said this could put up to $40 million in federal funding at risk.

"The potential exists for the project to be canceled entirely and for its associated federal funding to be reallocated somewhere else in the region," Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority chairwoman Anne Lents said in a board meeting last week.

Lents said the city staff could not say if or when the pause will be listed and that the project could be paused beyond current deadlines. She said redesign could add significant delays and add cost to the project.

SEE ALSO: Mayor Whitmire considers removal of 11th Street Bikeway project after cyclists concerned over safety

"All projects are on hold that reduce the number of general purpose traffic lanes or lane widths," Mayor John Whitmire's transportation advisor, Marlene Gafrick, said in a written statement to ABC13.

Gafrick said they are open to exploring options for building a redesigned project. In response to another question, she noted that "Houston will remain an auto-dependent city for many years to come."

"This is a transformative project that would make it easier to walk and bike in this corridor and give them better access to business while making it safer for everyone who uses it, including drivers," BikeHouston Executive Director Joe Cutrufo said.

Advocacy group BikeHouston has been critical of these recent moves to pause projects that could significantly impact and or improve pedestrian safety.

SEE ALSO: Taxpayers to foot estimated $730K bill for median removal along Houston Avenue: 'Kind of crazy'

Mayor Whitmire previously asked Public Works to "evaluate the effectiveness, impact, and identify lessons learned on the 11th Street Project" and considered taking out bike lanes former Mayor Sylvester Turner installed that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Barriers were also removed on Houston Avenue just north of downtown that were placed there to help with pedestrian safety. Whitmire says in part that it was impacting firefighters' ability to turn, so he had the barriers removed, to the tune of around $730,000 taxpayer dollars.

"We need to move forward with this type of project, not only because it's transforming a dangerous corridor, but also because there's federal money involved, and the expectation is we're going to carry through with this entire project," Cutrufo said.

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