Restoring our roads: Major projects underway in north Huntsville

single-meta-cal July 24, 2020

If you’ve driven North Memorial Parkway recently, your commute is starting to look a little different.

That’s because the North Memorial Parkway at Mastin Lake Road and Northern Bypass construction projects are officially underway.

During a progress report at the July 23 Huntsville City Council meeting, Director of Urban and Economic Development Shane Davis said motorists will see buildings being torn down at North Memorial Parkway and Mastin Lake to prepare for construction.

“ALDOT has let (awarded) the demolition contract for that,” he said. “That will take about 90 days to complete and we’ll certainly mow and keep those sites looking very presentable until road construction starts.”

Multi-phase project

Davis said projects like this typically occur in three phases. The first phase includes demolition of acquired structures in the right-of-way, followed by utility relocation at the site.

The process of moving utility infrastructure can take several months and involves multiple entities, such as Huntsville Utilities and private service providers.

“There’s a lot there,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of infrastructure on the Parkway – it’s the backbone of our community.”

There’s a lot of infrastructure on the Parkway – it’s the backbone of our community.”

Utility relocation should start either late this year or in early 2021. A timeline is not yet available, but Davis said construction could begin when utility work is approximately 70 percent complete.

Davis said breaking the project into mini-phases makes it more manageable for motorists, businesses and residents who live nearby.

“I’ve lived through it both ways,” he said. “We learned our lesson on the last overpasses on North Parkway and the previous ones on South Parkway where we let all the work in one contract. To our community, it felt like that construction lasted a decade and nothing was getting done because you tear the world up, then you stop and wait for utilities to move for a long period of time, and then the actual road construction occurs in a ‘start/stop sequence’ that can be frustrating to motorists dealing with construction zones.”

Northern Bypass construction

For the Northern Bypass project, Davis said the City will begin demolishing structures acquired along Bob Wade Lane in the next couple of weeks.  Utility relocation will then follow.

With Northern Bypass and North Memorial Parkway at Mastin Lake construction underway, Davis said the City’s only remaining road improvement project is U.S. 72 West.

“Plans are about 75 percent complete, so we’re getting ready to start acquiring right-of-way for that,” he said. “I think there’s 84 tracts to acquire so it’s going to take some time for that project. But all other projects are either completed or under construction.”

Good news for motorists: work on Cecil Ashburn Drive will end soon. Weather permitting, all four lanes should open to traffic sometime in August.

“We’re putting the last final one-inch wearing on that project,” Davis said. “Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll give that road back to the general public.”

Traffic concerns

Council President and District 1 Representative Devyn Keith said some residents worry about an influx of traffic on nearby surface roads during construction on North Memorial Parkway.

Davis said they have no plans to detour drivers off the Parkway into surrounding neighborhoods while work is underway.

“We will maintain two lanes in each direction at all times,” he said.

Things are really starting to change along that corridor. It’s taken us much longer than we wanted or anticipated, but good things are happening.”

If motorists voluntarily detour from the Parkway onto residential surface roads and it becomes a problem, Davis said the City will work with Huntsville Police to provide traffic enforcement there.

Road construction can be a headache for motorists. But Davis said the City is already seeing positive effects in the north Huntsville area from road projects and the new Lantana Park.

“Things are really starting to change along that corridor,” he said. “It’s taken us much longer than we wanted or anticipated, but good things are happening.”

For status reports and a live map of the City’s road improvement projects, bookmark the Roadwork Updates page on our website.