HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A community organization is taking action as a major Huntsville roadwork project approaches. They want to help with travel during the upcoming shutdown of Cecil Ashburn Drive.
The corridor will soon be closed for widening and a local group is collaborating ridesharing options.
Jennifer Nelson is with GrowCove, a civic organization that provides a unified point of contact for Hampton Cove residents, both within the incorporated area of Huntsville and also the unincorporated areas around it, up to the borders of Owens Cross Roads and Gurley.
“Our goal is to get all of our different decision makers and entities and residents talking to each other so we can all work together for the betterment of our area of town,” Nelson explained.
The group has been sharing detailed information on the project on their blog and on social media and they've met with the city several times to discuss construction and the impact it will have on thousands of people.
"We've tried to be on the forefront so we can educate our neighbors on what's going on throughout this project as well as other projects we're working on," Nelson said.
In January, the city is planning to totally close the road for more than a year to widen it.
It includes both Cecil Ashburn Drive and Sutton Road in southeast Huntsville. The project will go from Donegal Drive to Taylor Road, and the plan is to widen Cecil Ashburn to be a four-lane road with large raised median and 8′ shoulders on either side, and to widen Sutton Road to match the existing cross-section east of Taylor Road which has five lanes including a center turning lane.
According to project rebidding documents, the Cecil Ashburn corridor project has been reconsidered in two phases.
The first phase consists of a complete closure of the corridor on the mountain from Avalon Drive to Old Big Cove Road to all traffic for 10-14 months while certain construction activities (blasting, clearing, roadbed stabilization and reconstruction, etc) take place. Some construction on Sutton Road will take place simultaneously.
After Phase I is complete, additional construction work will continue for another 4-8 months, to open the remaining two lanes of traffic on the mountain, continue to widen Sutton Road, and install permanent traffic control devices and markings.
Altogether, the construction timeline is 540-650 days (18-22 months).
GrowCove members have been working with the City of Huntsville, Town of Gurley, Madison County, and Alabama DOT to try to coordinate various aspects of the project and mitigate potential issues within the Cove as well as alternate routes.
One such effort is their upcoming Ridesharing Options Open House to be held at Rivertree Church (652 Taylor Rd) on Monday, December 10th, 2018 from 5:30-7:30 pm. At the event, representatives from the City of Huntsville, Enterprise Vanpool, and Huntsville City Schools will be present to talk to residents about these ridesharing options, and have on-the-spot signups that can translate to successful vanpools and additional after school buses if there is sufficient interest.
“We have set up a number of park and rides at local establishments, temporary park and rides, than van poolers or car poolers can use to stage their journeys back and forth to where they’re going. There’s a lot of people that live in the Cove that commute to the Arsenal or downtown so the same place at the same time. Congestion doesn’t really come from the number of people that are trying to go from one place to another. It’s really dependent on the number of vehicles,” Nelson said.
GrowCove believes carpooling can help avoid turning roadways into parking lots.
"We could very easily add 10-15,000 cars from Cecil Ashburn onto the 30,000 vehicles per day that are currently using Governors. At peak times, this does have the potential to cause safety issues. We are having this ridesharing event so we don't have those safety issues and people can just ride together with their neighbor," Nelson stated.
They hope it can be a model for regional ridesharing.
"If everyone carpools with just one other driver even just once a week, there's a 20% reduction in vehicles on the road and van pooling of course is even greater," Nelson added. "Our goal is to maximize safety and minimize disruption and costs, both direct and indirect, to residents."
Meanwhile, the City of Huntsville is having a news conference on Thursday to give an update on the project, including plans for construction, timeline, and detours.