City of Huntsville encourages carpooling during Cecil Ashburn closure

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -  Thousands of people take Cecil Ashburn Drive to Huntsville and back every day.  They have four weeks to make other plans, because Cecil Ashburn is shutting down for construction on January 7th.

Drivers are challenged with finding alternate routes. And Huntsville city leaders are urging people to carpool.

The City has offered ride-sharing programs for a decade, and now officials are sharing options for how people can catch a ride. Neighbors in Hampton Cove were invited out to learn more about their options, including driving a rental van.

"The drivers are the people who sign up to vanpool, so you get a group that they all live in the same area and all work at the same place," said John Autry,  manager of public transportation. "Then we match carpoolers and vanpoolers together and then out of the group, they decide who's going to drive."

"Everybody who lives over here knows every time it rains, there's a crash on Governors, the road gets shuts down," Grow Cove advisory committee member Jennifer Nelson said.

Cecil Ashburn Drive will be closed for about a year and a half as it's expanded from two to four lanes. The road is one of the only routes west out of Hampton Cove.

"A lot of people are going to say, 'maybe it's not so bad.' Madison County resident Jeff Roberts said. "Then on day two, a lot of plans are going to change."

Parents admit it'll mean waking up earlier, finding another route, and carpooling.

Erika White commutes from Owens Cross Roads.

"Maybe an extra 30 or 45 minutes and letting the kids know, they need to be out the door," Erika White said.

"If people shared rides just once a week, that reduces traffic up to 20 percent," Nelson said.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car representatives say the van pooling would cost between $100 and $200 a month depending how many people they could get to sign up. Some neighbors are positive about the idea, because they already live close to several coworkers.

"Anybody who signs up for Commute Smart Huntsville has a guaranteed ride home through the van pool program," Nelson said.

People can sign up on the Commute Smart website to search by location and time of day you need to get to town and back.

Officials said they realize the closure will have a big impact on travel and this is one solution they're offering.

"If we could get let's just say one percent of the ten thousand people that live along the 431 corridor, that would take one hundred cars off the road," Autry explained.  "One percent probably doesn't sound like a lot, but a little bit can make a big impact."

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