MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Earlier this week, Governor Kay Ivey announced funding for three major road projects in North Alabama.

One of the projects is the widening of a section of Highway 53 in Madison County. The section that will be widened is between Harvest Road and Taurus Drive.

That section of road is currently two lanes. The project will add an additional lane on each side, making it a four lane highway.

Widening Highway 53 has been a priority for local officials for years.

In an interview with News 19, District 6 State Representative Andy Whitt, said a Highway 53 project “predates me, it’s decades in the process of being worked on.”

Rep. Whitt gave some background on the project, saying, “in 1996, then Governor, Fob James, announced that he would be widening Highway 53 out to interstate 65.”

The newly announced widening is not exactly the project officials have been hoping for.

“I would like to see it for the next phase where it goes all the way to Old Railroad Bed road” Whitt said.

However, he said he’s excited to see some progress. “It’s a big improvement and it is certainly a step in the right direction. It’s actually opening the door for that next phase,” Whitt said.

Representative Andy Whitt said safety is a big concern for the two lane section of Highway 53. “I was a volunteer fire department member there for 10 years and I worked many tragic wrecks there on Highway 53.”

He also spoke on the high volume of traffic in that area, due to the lack of extra lanes.

At the Harvest Road intersection, there are no turn lanes, so cars trying to cross traffic have to sit at a green light until oncoming traffic clears.

Rep. Whitt said, “I travel 53 on a daily basis. I’ll sit through several light cycles there at the Harvest road intersection. There’s over 17,000 cars that pass through the Harvest intersection and Highway 53 intersection on an average daily basis. That’s way too many.”

News 19 reached out to the Alabama Department of Transportation to learn more about the project.

Spokesperson, Tony Harris, tells News 19 that the North Alabama road projects announced by Governor Ivey on Thursday are all in the “preliminary engineering stages.”

He said that while people might not see traffic cones and bulldozers pop up soon, that doesn’t mean work has stalled. He said a lot of work has to go on in the background first.

News 19 asked when people will see noticeable construction. Harris said, “probably sometime early 2024, mid 2024 at this point.”

In regards to widening Highway 53 all the way to Old Railroad Bed Road and beyond, Harris said, “we’re already looking ahead at that next phase of the project and speaking with local officials.”