HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Washington Street in downtown Huntsville has been torn up and peppered with bright orange safety barrels for quite some time, but weather permitting, the improvement project’s last phase is drawing to a close.
The project consists of improvements along Washington Street, from North Side Square to Veterans Memorial Park. Improvements were made in phases, begin south to north, to minimize conflicts during construction, says Huntsville Director of Engineering Kathy Martin.
The contractor is currently working at the intersection of Monroe Street and Washington Street and should be complete within 3-weeks, weather permitting. As a result of the project, Washington Street north of Monroe Street, will be reduced to two lanes with no changes to traffic movements when complete.
The project will also provide for 9 additional parking spaces along Washington Street for Veterans Park, Martin says.
Chad Emerson, CEO of Downtown Huntsville, Inc. says when it’s all said and done Washington Street will be one of the most walked streets in the city. He says the improvements accomplish two things:
“They are some functional improvements – they make the crosswalks easier and better and make parking easier – but they are also attractive so you have to balance the functional side with the aesthetic side, and we think this project does it perfectly.”
Aesthetics, Emerson says, including brand new parking area pavers, grip plates, new lighting and landscaping along Washington.
“The lessons we’ve learned from places like shopping malls,” says Emerson, “is if you want to get people to walk around you need to give them safe places but you also need to give them attractive places; people want to be able to walk along a sidewalk and think it’s a safe sidewalk, an easy sidewalk to walk but it’s also an attractive place to be.”
Emerson explains the improvement project goes far beyond adding convenience of additional parking or a swanky new light post – Washington Street improvements help connect business areas and attractions as well as draw people in – people from around Huntsville or otherwise. And visitors, Emerson says, equal revenue.
“Hopefully these street improvements will help better connect the core of downtown with a great asset like the veterans memorial and then that connects through the greenway to the Meridian Street area, to the playground by the National Children’s Advocacy Center, so it’s about creating connectivity and this is another step in that direction.”
The phrase ‘Pardon Our Progress’ may not always make frustrated drivers maneuvering around cones and partially closed roadways feel better. But Chad Emerson says the temporary inconvenience is well worth it in the long run – it’s like an investment, he says.
“You need to have patience and that investment will realize its full value,” Emerson explains.
Final wearing and striping for the entire Washington Street project is scheduled for mid-February. The final appearance of the project upon completion will be similar to what is currently in place between North Side Square and Holmes Avenue, with the exception of the final paving and striping.