Photo of Zierdt Road construction courtesy of SJ & L General Contractors
The $25-million Zierdt Road construction project is on time, on schedule, and on budget
Mayor Tommy Battle likes to say he has good news and bad news about the major road construction under way throughout Huntsville.
“The good news is we are spending a half billion dollars to improve your roads,” says Battle, “and the bad news is we are spending a half billion dollars to improve your roads.”
Orange cones are a common site across the City of Huntsville, and the widening of Zierdt from Martin Road to Madison Blvd., a 3 ½ -mile stretch, is one of the major road construction efforts, serving some 16,500 motorists daily. The City’s goal is to maintain an average 18-minute commute for residents, and the improvements to Zierdt Road will facilitate that.
Residents using Zierdt Road may be somewhat bewildered by the current lull in activity, but in reality that has happened because good weather and site conditions enabled the contractor to finish the most recent task “ahead of schedule and significantly under budget,” according to Kathy Martin, director of engineering for the City of Huntsville.
That’s great news to the City Council Member representing District 5, Will Culver, who considers the improvements of Zierdt Road one of his major priorities.”
“We haven’t stopped (working), but we’ve got a lot of moving parts,” says Culver.
The Zierdt Road project has been an ambitious undertaking involving the City of Huntsville, City of Madison, Madison County, Redstone Arsenal and the State of Alabama. Federal funds are covering 80 percent of the $25 million dollar price tag, with the City of Huntsville paying 15 percent of the cost and the City of Madison chipping in five percent.
Federally funded projects usually take about eight to nine years from conception to construction. The City started design in 2007. After a number of public meetings with residents of the area, city officials heard an overwhelming desire for a multi-use path for bikes and walking and for improved intersection function. The City agreed and worked to incorporate public wishes into the design. Obtaining the land for a 12-foot path and improved intersections has required the purchase of additional right-of-way, and the State of Alabama has been tasked with acquiring the needed land.
“While we’re going above and beyond, in the end it is really going to be great so people can bike, walk and jog along that stretch of roadway,” Culver says. “It’s going to be awesome.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW?
The city is currently awaiting permit approvals, utility relocations and cost estimates for the next phase, which will involve culvert extension, construction of transition lanes, and a new roadway across Lady Ann Lake near Edgewater. The City is monitoring the progress of these efforts on a weekly basis and residents should see a new round of construction in January.
WHAT’S THE TIMELINE?
The Zierdt Road construction, which began in 2013, was separated into four phases to expedite the work on land that was available for construction. “We’ve made significant progress, and we’ve performed three years of work earlier than expected by phasing the project,” Martin says.
Phase 1: Clearing for the northbound lanes was along Redstone Arsenal property which began in 2013.
Phase 2: Relocating Redstone Arsenal security fencing began in 2014. Half of this stretch of Zierdt Road is on Redstone property.
Phase 3: Northbound lanes are 95 percent complete. Construction activity will begin in January to transition traffic to the new northbound lanes in preparation for the next phase of work on the southbound lanes. The City anticipates utility relocation will be complete and all permits approved by the end of this year.
Phase 4: This phase will involve construction of the southbound lanes, multi-use path, and intersection improvements at Martin Road and Madison Boulevard. The State of Alabama is completing the right-of-way acquisition for this phase to begin. Construction is expected to start next summer (2017) and finish within 2.5 years to provide for a completed Zierdt Road project.