Community input prompts changes to Cecil Ashburn Drive widening project

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A major road project will start next year. It's expected to cause headaches for thousands of drivers. Some of you know from first-hand experience that Cecil Ashburn Drive is at capacity.

"A lot of people think it's just the two intersections on both ends and if we fix that, we'll fix the problem," says Kathy Martin, Director of City Engineering for Huntsville. "But really, you're just letting more traffic through and you're moving the bottleneck further up the mountain."

Martin says the plan to widen the road to four lanes has been met with mixed reviews. That was made clear at a public community meeting this fall.

"We heard from some that said just shut the entire road down and do it as quickly as you can and others that begged us not to shut it down," describes Martin.

With more than 300 people in attendance came lots of feedback. Martin says the city took those suggestions to heart and incorporated them into the design.

"I think what we had failed to see, because we were so focused on Cecil Ashburn and widening it, was a critical bottleneck at the base of the mountain on the east side," explains Martin. "As a takeaway, we did add some double left turns from Old Big Cove onto Cecil Ashburn and also right turn lanes as you descend the mountain to turn onto to Old Big Cove."

They're also addressing another concern - access to the Land Trust of North Alabama trails on the mountain since a median will be added.

"We have gone back and we are very close to resolving that issue to provide full access to the Land Trust area on top of the mountain," says Martin.

Martin says they're about 60 percent complete in the design phase and on track for things to start in the fall of 2017. Martin says after they're done with the design phase, they'll start on the traffic control plan.

Martin realizes that two years is a long time for drivers not to have full access to a main road, but she pointed out that the bulk of the disruption to drivers should only happen in the first six to eight months, not the entire duration of construction.