Beyond the Pavement: Get to Know the People Working to Improve your Roadways

Work on the Shepherd Durham Project continues as part of the City’s plan to improve transportation and safety infrastructure in the area for residents, business owners, and visitors. From roadway upgrades to new bike routes and improved lighting, the project is designed to make biking, driving, and walking through this major transit corridor safer and easier. During the major transportation improvement project, businesses, residents, and drivers are being impacted by on-going construction. For example, right now the construction team is repaving driveways, pouring new roadways, sidewalks, and curbs, and installing new streetlights on both Shepherd and Durham.

To learn more about who is helping keep the project on schedule, we sat down with the project management team this week.

Hear from the Experts: What it Takes to Oversee a Multi-Million Dollar Transportation Project

Matt Kainer is a Senior Project Manager at Quiddity Engineering, and Fernando de la Garza is a Project Manager at CDS Smith. The two transportation professionals are working closely together to manage the Shepherd Durham Project construction. Matt has been working on capital construction projects for more than 15 years and has hands-on experience managing both large- and small-scale projects. A transportation engineer, Fernando has worked as both a designer and construction manager throughout his career, including with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).

What is your role in the Shepherd Durham project?

FG: Working alongside Matt Kainer, my job is to ensure that the contractor advances construction work without any conflicts and that our inspectors have the resources they need to do their jobs. As project managers, our day-to-day activities vary. For instance, this week I met with business owners in the area to share information about the project and how it is progressing. We also responded to a major utility issue and observed and responded to traffic control impacts.

MK: As the Deputy Project Manager, the highest priority is to resolve issues that enable the contractor to keep progressing the project. If an issue is keeping the contractor from progressing work, that directly translates to the project taking longer to complete whereas some administrative tasks can be delayed until a later date without impacting the project. A typical day on the project for me usually entails an update meeting with either the contractor or internal project staff. I will also spend time in the field reviewing specific issues that need resolution. Finally, I’ll spend time working on some of the project management/administrative work that ensures the project is properly managed and documented. The order of those three items (meetings, field review, and administrative work) may change each day, but those are the three main categories most of my days encompass. It’s cliché, but every day truly is different.

What has been the biggest barrier to meeting the project’s goals and timeline so far? 

MK: The biggest impact to our project thus far has been utility conflicts. This is a major corridor that has seen decades upon decades of growth, modifications, and transitions, and those same things apply to utilities. While the project design team went to great lengths to identify conflicts with existing utilities, in the field we have found that utilities often do not match the record drawings from the utility owners. Additionally, we are frequently finding abandoned and/or unrecorded lines  including gas, water, power, and telecom lines. When these lines are found,  each one must be treated as though it is active until it is confirmed otherwise. Clearing these conflicts  can sometimes take days or weeks to complete. Depending on the severity of the conflict, this can lead to unexpected project delays.

What other challenges are the project team encountering?

FG: For projects like ours, weather, traffic, and utility impacts are all common challenges that can alter the project’s timeline. For example, when utility or communication companies need to adjust their lines, two teams working in the same space at the same time can be challenging. Similarly, this area is inundated with development right now, and those construction teams are sometimes working in the same space as our team. It’s our job as project managers to work with the contractor to identify ways to expedite their work and make up for days lost to challenges like these.

What would you like residents, business owners, and visitors to know about managing a project of this magnitude? 

MK: There is considerable thought and consideration put into everything that we do, especially when it pertains to things that affect residents, business owners, and people walking or driving through the area. But, for a project as large and complex as this one, some impacts are unfortunately unavoidable. No one enjoys the disruptions caused by construction, and neither the contractor nor the project management team wants the project to take any longer than absolutely necessary to complete.

FG: When we are planning for a major traffic impact, we will set up message boards along the route to communicate when and where it will occur. Also, when we’re starting construction on a new street, the contractor will go door to door to inform residents and business owners that there is work upcoming on their street and that there is going to be some inconvenience to the residents and businesses there. Another way for people to know what’s coming up is to visit the project is the website, which provides information about where the contractor is planning to work next, as well as general information about the project.

Learn more about the ongoing transportation improvement project here: https://www.shepherddurham.com/

 

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Street Closure This Week

The City of Houston has scheduled a temporary water service outage from Monday, April 15, starting at 9:00 p.m. through Tuesday, April 16, ending at 5:00 a.m. Notices have been distributed to the affected residents and businesses.

The dates may change due to weather conditions. Stay informed about any updates by visiting ShepherdDurham.com.