Road project construction

Construction has begun on road work projects around the area, and local business owners have been asking questions as to its timeline. (Photo by Matt deGrood)

From Interstate 10 all the way over to Interstate 45 – the Texas Department of Transportation has big construction projects planned across the area in coming years.

And, while engineers envision a future where wider roads mean less traffic, at least a few neighborhood businesses have questions about what the construction might mean for them in the interim.

“The key question is going to be time,” said Emmett Doherty, one of the owners of Nationwide Tools & Supplies, a supply business with headquarters at 6100 N. Shepherd Drive. “How many months will this be in disarray?”

Doherty in a phone conversation with the Leader this week said that while he had questions about the department’s plans, he wasn’t yet concerned or upset about the projects.

“I’m not going to get overly concerned yet,” he said. “I’ve always felt like TXDOT has done a fair job historically of addressing businesses’ needs.”

Representatives for the North Shepherd Community Alliance are set to reach out soon to department officials to set up a meeting to discuss four pending projects that could have an effect on the area – the expansion of Interstate 45, work on Interstate 10 and construction along Shepherd and Durham drives, according to meeting minutes provided to the Leader.

“We’re worried it will be hard to get in and out,” said Kelly Hakes, a member of the alliance.

Much remains unknown about the particulars of those projects. For instance, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration has halted the $7 billion plan to widen Interstate 45 from downtown north to Beltway 8 in Houston over civil rights concerns.

It’s not yet clear when the project might resume.

The department, however, did hold a public meeting late last month to unveil plans to raise Interstate 10 through part of the area to keep it out of the floodplain.

The $347 million project would raise the interstate’s main lane elevation above the floodplain of White Oak Bayou in the 1.8 miles between Heights Boulevard and Interstate 45, according to a department fact sheet. Crews would also construct a 21.7-acre detention pond on the north side of the interstate, between Taylor Street and Houston Avenue, along with a 10-foot-wide path along White Oak Bayou between Studemont Street and Interstate 45, according to the sheet.

Construction on the. Project is tentatively set to begin in the summer of 2024, according to the department.

Finally, work began early this year on the Shepherd and Durham Major Investment Project – a $115 million initiative that will overhaul the two streets between North Loop 610 and Interstate 10, while adding bicycle lanes, new and wider sidewalks, landscaping and underground infrastructure for water, wastewater and stormwater drainage.

The project could take at least five years to complete, according to Sherry Weesner, president of the Memorial Heights Redevelopment Authority.

Businesses living in the shadow of those construction projects want more information on how they might affect traffic in coming years, Hakes said.

But Doherty said he was cautiously optimistic that conversations with the Texas Department of Transportation later this month would answer his questions.

And he added he was sure the department would work with businesses if they explain their concerns.

“Sometimes you might need to bring them down to the real world and let them know the reality – that this can affect millions in sales,” he said. “But there’s supposed to be a meeting this month. After that, I think we’ll get a better feel for the plan.”

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