From vision to right of way acquisition, what’s the deal with the City of Huntsville’s infrastructure development? In this multi-part series, we aim to answer that question as we hear from those who lead the effort. We’ll explore the roadwork questions – from Big Picture to granular – on the minds of Huntsville citizens. Have we missed something you want to know? E-mail us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Depending on the scope of the project, building a road in Huntsville can involve all of these key entities.
City of Huntsville
Vision. The Mayor provides infrastructure vision and planning for Capital Improvements within the community.
Funding. Road funding comes from multiple sources. Depending on the road type and responsible entity for a road, funding for improvements can be allocated from Federal, State or local revenues. The City provides funding resources for road improvement projects on local collector and arterial roads. Collector roads are low to moderate capacity roads (think: Drake Avenue, Pulaski Pike, Clinton Avenue, Taylor, Zierdt Road, etc.). These collector roads help move traffic from local streets to larger, often State/Federal managed, arterial roads (think: US 72, US 431/231 and Governors Drive).
Design, Implementation, Coordination & Maintenance. Zooming into the department level, the City’s Engineering Department manages consultants and contractors on local projects, reviews and approves designs, manages the right of way acquisition process and serves as the project manager for construction of local road projects (ex. Cecil Ashburn Drive Improvement Project).
Public Works is charged with road maintenance. Think: potholes and resurfacing.
Traffic Engineering ensures traffic signals, traffic signs, striping and other types of directional and informational road and pedestrian infrastructure is maintained to provide safe operations.
The Planning Department advises the Mayor on current and projected traffic counts of the road network, works directly with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (more on the MPO below), incorporates roadwork plans into the City’s long-range plan and advises on technologies of the future.
Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)
ALDOT is a state cabinet-level department whose director reports to the Governor of Alabama. Responsible for maintaining and developing state and federal highways and interstates, ALDOT is broken into 5 geographic regions throughout the state. The North Alabama region is headquartered in Huntsville and employs about 650 people. Statewide, the department has around 4,400 employees.
Huntsville-area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
As Dennis Madsen, the City’s Manager of Urban and Long Range Planning, puts it: think of MPO as the ‘traffic cop’ or coordinating body between North Alabama governments. MPO manages and distributes state and federal funding for major roadwork projects with regional impact. The Huntsville-area MPO Board of Directors is made up of voting members that represent the City of Huntsville, Madison, Owens Cross Roads, Triana, Madison County and the State of Alabama. They meet once a quarter to ensure “everyone is around the same table.” The City of Huntsville’s Planning Department acts as de facto staff for the MPO. In fact, one full time Planning staff member is devoted entirely to working with the MPO. The Planning Department assists with traffic modeling, coordinating communication between the board members and organizing public meetings. MPO is currently updating the region’s short term and long-range transportation plans.
U.S. Department of Transportation
A cabinet-level department of the U.S. government, the Department of Transportation houses the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an agency within the broader department whose impact on municipalities comes largely in the form of grants that allow local governments to take on critical infrastructure projects that state and local departments can’t afford on their own. As an example, the FHWA recently awarded the State of Alabama two Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grants totaling close to $132 million.