Getting better mileage out of Huntsville’s roads

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - It's been two years since the City of Huntsville began a master planning process.

The BIG Picture is a detailed road map, intended to guide all aspects of future growth - from land use to recreation, resource management to transportation.

This week, planners are turning their attention to city streets with the Complete Street Seminar.

The free event, open to the public, is set for Wednesday, June 15 at 6 p.m.

Representatives from Smart Growth America will be in the Stone Event Center at Campus No. 805, 2620 Clinton Avenue NW.

Huntsville was one of seven communities nationwide selected to receive technical assistance from Smart Growth America. The program is funded by a grant and there is no cost to the city.

Working with Smart Growth America, city leaders hope to develop a Complete Street policy.

According to BIG Picture leaders, that policy will "help Huntsville plan and design its streets to be safe, comfortable, and convenient for people of all ages and abilities, whether they are walking, bicycling, driving, or using public transportation."

Dennis Madsen is the director of Urban and Long Range Planning for Huntsville.

As Madsen points out, each road is different. For instance, Memorial Parkway will always be intended for transit, not pedestrians.

Still, he believes there are opportunities to get drivers and bicyclists or pedestrians to the same destination, although they may take different routes.

For example, while a driver may use I-565 to get from the UAH area to Downtown Huntsville, Holmes Avenue could help a cyclist make the same connection.

Such a network will require more sidewalks, bike lanes and greenways - work that's easier to do in new neighborhoods.  Where retro-fitting is required, Madsen admits it becomes more of a challenge.

That's one reason he says the city is already trying to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

"We frequently look for targets of opportunity to make sure, 'well, if we're going to be in here doing this utility work, let's go ahead and re-stripe for a bike lane.'"

Anyone interested in learning more about the city's efforts and the Complete Streets initiative, is invited to attend Wednesday's seminar. A portion of the evening will be dedicated to audience questions.

Following the event, the highlights will be posted to the BIG Picture website.