ALDOT addresses backlash over paving US 431 during Cecil Ashburn work

ALDOT addresses backlash over paving US 431 during Cecil Ashburn work
The Alabama Department of Transportation addressed concerns about U.S. 431 during the road work on Cecil Ashburn Drive that's scheduled for spring 2019. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Concerns over a big south Huntsville road project reached an all-time high last week as the state confirmed that they will be doing paving on another major artery at the same time.

But the Department of Transportation has a key clarification, which officials say has been left out of social media rants and blog posts.

With Cecil Ashburn Drive closing down in early 2019, thousands of drivers will take U.S. 431 and there’s been outrage this week online over the fact that ALDOT will be resurfacing 431 in the spring, as residents and commuters voiced fears of an even worse than imagined traffic nightmare.

Seth, Burkett, ALDOT’s North Region public information officer, said that the routine maintenance resurfacing project will happen on five miles of U.S. 431 between Old Big Cove Road and Bassett Street.

“We anticipate work beginning sometime in the spring and lasting about two months. The work will be performed at night so as to avoid impacts on traffic during peak travel times,” Burkett stressed.

The city says Cecil Ashburn needs to be widened because it’s overcapacity.

“We’re anticipating early January to have a contractor in place ready to go and the intent there is 12-14 months with an incentive in place to have traffic restored in 10 months. We recognize how important that road is to the community and that’s the reason why we have to do this,” said Kathy Martin, Huntsville’s director of engineering.

She stressed safety improvements coming to the roadway with the project.

“The road is only two lanes out there and in order to widen it, we have to close the road to improve it so the contractor has room to work,” Martin added.

Hampton Cove area resident Richard Williams thinks a lot of work needs to be done before Cecil Ashburn Drive is shut down.

“The problem you’ve got with it is, what do you do with all of that traffic? You need to have routes that are better planned,” he said. “When you encourage growth out this direction and then cut down a major artery, it’s going to cause major problems.”

He thinks it’s a bad idea to pave 431 at the same time Cecil Ashburn is closed for construction.

“You’re still going to have to have one lane open because people do travel it throughout the night. You’re going to strip the road and cause issues with rocks being thrown up. It’s not going to be perfectly done overnight,” Williams added. “I am not saying these, individually, are not road improvements that need to happen, but doing both simultaneously is terrible planning. I am truly concerned for the safety for those of us who live east of Monte Sano Mountain.”

To avoid 431, many will turn to U.S. 72. Williams has been trying out different routes, but it’s made him even more worried about the options for drivers.

“The next route will be going out towards Gurley out Little Cove Road and go through Rock Cut Road. The road is not capable of handling that much traffic safely. It’s all about safety for the people who live out here,” William stated.

He feels that improvements need to made to Little Cove Road like widening, establishing shoulders and working on the bridges before starting work on Cecil Ashburn.

“The bridges out there would be unsafe for that many vehicles for that much traffic in the morning or coming home between 3-5 p.m. Safety is the biggest issue we’ve got with it,” he added.

The city has an intersection improvement project is planned for Rock Cut Road.

“U.S. 72 East is just one of very few alternate routes to head from Big Cove over into Huntsville and with the Cecil Ashburn project coming up, we’re making every effort to improve alternative access routes to encourage motorists to use these routes,” Martin said.

It’s under design and intent is to have it in place before Cecil Ashburn begins construction.

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