Orange construction cones may replace the Saturn V as Huntsville’s unofficial mascot over the next five years.
Mayor Tommy Battle called a Wednesday news conference to update drivers on 27 road construction projects around the city that are recently under way or expected to break ground in the coming months.
The $383 million in planned road work is touching almost every major street in town, including Memorial Parkway, U.S. 72 East and West, Martin Road, Research Park Boulevard, Old Madison Pike and Zierdt Road.
Improving traffic flow is vital to Huntsville maintaining its status as an employment hub for all of North Alabama, said Battle. Currently, an estimated 110,000 workers commute into the city from surrounding areas.
“It is inconvenient having to divert traffic and move people around through construction zones,” said Battle. “But we’re a regional employment center. Our workforce comes from a 14-county area. We have to have the capabilities of getting those people … into the city of Huntsville to work each day.”
The road upgrades are a mix of 15 locally-funded projects and 12 being done in concert with the Alabama Department of Transportation. Huntsville and the state are splitting the estimated $221.5 million cost of new Parkway overpasses at Mastin Lake, Lily Flagg and Byrd Spring roads, widening U.S. 72 East and West, and building the next leg of the Northern Bypass.
Last December, the Huntsville City Council voted to raise sales taxes from 8 percent to 9 percent to finance the city’s share of the road construction partnership.
Here’s an update from Battle and City Engineer Kathy Martin on some key road projects:
New Memorial Parkway overpasses at Byrd Spring and Lily Flagg roads:Design is 90 percent finished; state expected to seek construction bids in March 2015; work on access roads should start mid-2015. Huntsville wants the contractor to move quickly, said Martin, and may offer cash incentives for finishing ahead of schedule. Part of the work will be done at night to try to minimize impact on businesses in that stretch, she said.
New Memorial Parkway overpass at Mastin Lake Road: Design is 30 percent finished; construction scheduled to start late 2016.
Third westbound lane over Chapman Mountain on U.S. 72 East: Reed Contracting has been hired and should start work in October; the job is expected to be finished in April 2016.
Six-laning U.S. 72 West from Providence Main Street to Limestone County line: Concept drawings being reviewed; public involvement meeting planned for later this month; on track for mid-2016 start.
Build Northern Bypass between Pulaski Pike and Memorial Parkway: Design 60 percent finished; next step is acquiring needed right-of-way; on track for mid-2017 start.
Holmes Avenue bridge replacement: Construction is 70 percent complete and should wrap up in January.
Four-laning Zierdt Road between Madison Boulevard and Martin Road:Clearing and Redstone Arsenal fence relocation complete; construction of new northbound lanes on track to start late this year and finish in mid-2016.
Five-laning Martin Road from Zierdt Road to near Huntsville International Airport: First phase from Zierdt to Old Jim Williams Road expected to start early 2016.
Five-laning Winchester Road between Dominion Circle and Naugher Road:Design is 90 percent complete; next step is purchasing needed right-of-way; on track for early 2016 construction start.
Widening Old Madison Pike west of Cummings Research Park: Construction is 70 percent complete and should wrap up in April 2015.
Weatherly Road extension to future Grissom High School site: Construction is 20 percent complete and should be finished by July 2015.
New five-lane section of Church Street between Oakwood and Pratt avenues: Construction is 80 percent complete and on track to wrap up in October.