REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) - More than 40,000 people enter the gates of Redstone Arsenal every workday. Twenty years from now, that number might be much larger.
"If everything went our way, we could be 60, 70, 80,000 folks," says Joe Fitzgerald, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army. However, those big numbers are the stuff of nightmares for anyone who has recently been stuck in glacially slow traffic outside Redstone's main gate.
"Will there need to be additional gates, additional improvements to corridors? Of course," says Fitzgerald.
"When you talk about our expansion to our opening of the north end of the installation on our Goss Road area development plan, there you're talking about adding a gate," says Redstone's Garrison Commander Col. Bill Marks. He goes on to say that Gate Nine will eventually be pushed back about three-quarters of a mile.
Away from the gates, infrastructure improvements are happening across Madison County. Those changes are about handling the needs of the present. The future for a base doubling its workforce means more community involvement.
"We have to work to make sure our transportation network stays ahead of the curve. I mean, we can't wait until things are a huge problem, and then try to fix them," says Huntsville Long Range Planner Dennis Madsen,
What Madsen says is sound wisdom if Redstone lives up to the predictions, and no one is forgetting that infrastructure means a lot of things.
"We've done a good job of creating the capacity to enable growth. You know, you look at the water system. They're sinking a new pipeline into Lake Guntersville to make sure we have plenty of water," says Mike Ward of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. That water will serve growing neighborhoods.
There's another part of the plan for the future. "We have a lot of underdeveloped land in our core. If that turns into newly developed land that has more of a residential capacity to it, you could end up accommodating all those new workers and doing so within a very short commute distance to the Arsenal," says Madsen.
Planners appear to be ahead of the curve on infrastructure and housing, but there are also energy needs. "It's all as a response to the tornadoes where we lost power for nine days. We realized we had a vulnerability we didn't think beforehand was possible," says Col. Marks.
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The problems from the power loss led to the plan to install a solar array on the base. "It would roughly be the size or a little bigger than a football field. It's also expandable, and it would be one of the largest solar arrays in the state," says Col. Marks.
An example of what's planned for Redstone can be found at Avion Solutions. The Huntsville defense contractor is installing its own 50-kilowatt solar array.
"Well, we did this basically to try to offset the amount of energy we used in the building, which we considered to be excessive. And after doing some efficiencies we decided the solar array was the next thing to do to try and get us to net zero, which is the process Redstone Arsenal is trying to do right now," says Avion's Randy Buckner.
The city of Huntsville wants to help, and is exploring the idea of changing the solid waste disposal plan so it can use the process of burning garbage to make electricity.
Energy and infrastructure are definitely two pieces of the future of Redstone puzzle, and the planning to make them adequate is well underway.