Cities, state working on Highway 72 improvements

(Source: WAFF)
(Source: WAFF)
Published: Nov. 22, 2017 at 2:55 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2017 at 8:59 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Many people will hit traffic while visiting family on Thanksgiving, but what about everyday traffic woes? WAFF 48 News looked at a highway thousands travel every day: Highway 72.

It's pretty fair to say the cities of Huntsville and Madison have had to go through some growing pains. It can be frustrating when you keep hitting red light after red light.

"Whenever it gets backed up, it just sits still," said driver Bruce Bertke.

When it comes to traffic signals along Highway 72, some may think the timing is little off.

"They have not been updated for at least, I'd say six years," said Dan Sanders, director of traffic engineering for the city of Huntsville.

Highway 72 has a mix of signals on timers and ones that change by sensors in the asphalt detecting cars piling up. It's a balance based on seconds or minutes at the light, and those timers are about to get a full adjustment.

"I would never oversell it and make this corridor flow freely and no problems, no complaints. I would never say that, but we can improve it and we are going to do that in the next 60 days," said Sanders.

Motorists should see a difference within 60 days, however, there's something about Highway 72 not even well-timed traffic lights can fix in just days.

"You can't time your way out of a problem that is due to lack of capacity. If there is only so much pavement out there, so many lanes, then there is only so much we can do with the signal timing," said Sanders.

"It will get better, in a couple of years," said John Cooper, the state director of the Department of Transportation.

A massive project is on the horizon to widen Highway 72 right at that bottleneck at Providence Main in Huntsville all the way to County Line Road in Madison when the road goes from three lanes in each direction down to just two.

"It is beyond the capacity that it should be carrying," said Cooper.

Just that section of road has 41,000 drivers rolling through every day.

The plan is to add an additional westbound lane and eastbound lane, again from Providence Main to County Line Road. It's part of a joint effort between ALDOT and the cities of Huntsville and Madison with a $36.5 million price tag. There's been talk of this for some time, but Cooper admits it's been delayed for one big reason.

"We have qualms and still have qualms about its impact on the business community. We want to minimize those as best we can. Construction is disruptive," said Cooper.

As for drivers, many we spoke to said they can put up with construction for the long-term benefit.

"People will be willing to do that knowing that there is going to be some change coming. I think it will work fine," said driver Jess Smith.

Drivers can look forward to at least a two-year wait time before seeing the bulldozers come out for construction.

ALDOT is in the design phase of how to widen Highway 72. Then comes acquisition of right of way, meaning carving out that extra westbound and eastbound lane on an already packed highway.

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