HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - We’re exactly one week away from the start of a huge road project in south Huntsville.
Cecil Ashburn Drive is shutting down in a matter of days, which will impact thousands of commuters.
[READ MORE: Cecil Ashburn Drive to close Jan. 7 for widening]
It's the shutdown many have been dreading, but the city says the work needs to be done to make Cecil Ashburn wider to handle more traffic as growth continues- and to make it safer.
Big flashing construction signs are now out on both sides of the mountain alerting drivers that Cecil Asburn Drive will close Jan. 7 for crews to start work on one of the city’s most heavily trafficked corridors.
All lanes of Cecil Ashburn Drive, between Old Big Cove Road and Donegal Drive, will shut down for construction.
In 10 months, two lanes of Cecil Ashburn are expected reopen to traffic.
All lanes of the completed project are expected to open 8 months later, bringing the total project duration to 18 months.
“Cecil Ashburn, right now, handles about 17,000 trips a day. As our traffic and engineering folks will tell you, a standard two lane road is set up to handle 14000 trips a day at maximum capacity,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.
“We’ve had over 800 accidents and unfortunately, 11 fatalities on Cecil Ashburn, the latest being just earlier this year. That’s unacceptable to Huntsville- it’s unacceptable to our residents and the commuters coming in,” added Shane Davis, director of economic and urban development.
The total project cost for the Cecil Ashburn Road Improvement Project is just under $18 million.
The 3.4-mile road improvement project will widen Cecil Ashburn from two to four lanes, geared at improving traffic flow and incorporating safety improvements.
The contractor will be incentivized to reopen two lanes of traffic within 10 months.
Remaining work is expected to be complete six to eight months later with all lanes open by May 2020.
Lots of planning has gone into preparing for the project and that includes public safety agencies who will adapt when the road is no longer available for emergency response crews.
"We don't feel like the citizens will have any problem at all. We have adequate staff on that side of the mountain and we've made arrangements if we need to move resources, we can get them over there quickly. We'll use traffic preemption if we need HEMSI to bring a patient back to the hospital. We've worked extensively on our plans," said Huntsville Fire & Rescue Chief Mac McFarlen.
“This is a flexible plan so as things go on, we’ll change things as needed to provide the services for the citizens that they expect,” added Cpt. Juan Joyner, who oversee’s HPD’s Special Operations Division.
As for those alternate routes during construction, the city is encouraging those in the Hampton Cove area to try Rock Cut Road to get onto U.S. 72 East.
Weather permitting, a new signal will be functioning on Friday at the intersection to help with traffic flow.
Drivers are asked to use caution there.
By shutting the road down totally for widening, the city says they're saving taxpayers millions of dollars and cutting two years of public pain in the construction process.
Business owners on Cecil Ashburn stress to their customers that they will remain open during the shutdown.