Huntsville, now Alabama’s largest city by population, continues to grow by 464 new residents per month. With growth comes opportunities as well as challenges, especially where transportation infrastructure is concerned.
Mayor Tommy Battle has long advocated for reducing travel time for commuters, no matter what part of the Huntsville metro area they’re from. Less driving means more time spent with families and friends.
“Since I took office, one of my biggest priorities has been to maintain that average 18-to-20-minute workday commute,” Mayor Battle said. “Roads are essential to continued growth and quality of life. Keeping everything flowing is key.”
Fortunately, the City’s planners and engineers are always looking for trouble spots and how to remedy them. The City also collaborates with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) as well as regional, state and federal partners to secure funding for critical road needs.
Here are five ways the City moved transportation infrastructure forward in 2022:
1. Restore Our Roads Phase II
The second phase of Mayor Battle’s Restore Our Roads initiative tackles seven projects that will reshape how commuters move around the City for decades to come. With a price tag of about $800 million, the projects are a joint venture between the City of Madison and Madison County Commission as well as Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT).
“None of it would be possible without careful planning, prudent spending and fruitful partnerships,” Mayor Battle said.
The second phase includes construction of the new Resolute Way interchange at Interstate 565, just west of Research Park Boulevard, providing improved access to Redstone Arsenal, Gateway Park and Madison Boulevard/Governors West, and the East Arsenal Connector road from the Sparkman Drive exit at I-565 to Patton Road.
Additional projects include:
- Widening U.S. 72 West from Providence Main to County Line Road in Huntsville and Madison
- Widening I-565 from County Line Road to Wall Triana Highway
- Widening U.S. 53 in north Madison County from Taurus Drive to Old Railroad Bed Road
- U.S. 72 East from I-565 to east of Shields Road
- Improvements to the I-565 / Memorial Parkway interchange
2. Street resurfacing and construction
Drivers often talk about Huntsville’s main arterial roads (e.g., Interstate 565, Memorial Parkway and University Drive), but collector roads and surface streets also play a significant role in how traffic moves. To that end, Huntsville is allocating $19 million to resurface 103 City streets in fiscal year 2022-23 – an all-time high.
The City will spend an additional $70 million during the same fiscal year on new construction projects that will add capacity to City streets.
3. Forward movement on Northern Bypass
At the tail end of 2021, the City entered an agreement with ALDOT to finish construction of the Northern Bypass, a loop road that will connect Alabama 53 with U.S. 72. This year, the project moved forward with 95% of the design and right-of-way acquisitions completed.
When ready, the Northern Bypass will take pressure off Memorial Parkway while opening new opportunities for commercial and residential development in North Huntsville.
“North Huntsville is rife with opportunities for growth as it already has utility infrastructure in place,” said Shane Davis, Huntsville’s Director of Urban & Economic Development. “This area experienced a lot of momentum in 2022 and North Huntsville will be a continued growth corridor for the City going forward.”
4. Projects winding down, others ramping up
2022 saw the completion of improvements to Zierdt Road. Additionally, Phase I of Martin Road improvements are substantially complete.
Also nearing the finish line are improvements to Research Park Boulevard and Madison Pike, which should ease traffic congestion for the thousands of Research Park employees and those visiting MidCity. This year also saw the opening of a new exit, MidCity Way, completed shortly before the opening of The Orion Amphitheater. The exit takes pressure off University Drive by putting concertgoers almost directly into The Orion’s parking lot.
Looking ahead, Martin Road Phase II will begin in 2023, providing easier access to and from Redstone Arsenal via a five-lane road. Also set to wrap up is Greenbrier Parkway in West Huntsville, which will connect I-565 to I-65 in Limestone County. Finally, ALDOT will begin construction on a new overpass at Mastin Lake Road in early 2023.
5. Public transit push
For those who prefer to ride than drive, Mayor Battle worked closely with Huntsville Transit to promote the benefits of public transit, especially during a time of fluctuating gas prices.
Transit officials also worked to revamp its Transit Improvement Plan and held several public stakeholder meetings to solicit input on everything from hours of operation to routes. Those meetings occurred as Huntsville prepared to break ground on a new transfer station that will accommodate larger buses and enhance riders’ security and comfort.
Looking into the future, Planning officials are optimistic about adding Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors as a sort of litmus test for a light rail system. BRTs include a dedicated traffic lane on major thoroughfares and the ability to “queue jump” or have traffic signal priority at intersections to move passengers quickly through congested areas.
“Together, with our transportation partners, we’re always looking ahead to see what other modes of transportation future generations will need most,” Mayor Battle said.