HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville could soon become the largest city in Alabama. Within the next 10 years, our city is on track to outgrow Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery, according to census data analysis.
It's an exciting projection but one Mayor Tommy Battle isn't striving for. In fact, being number one in population doesn't come close to the efforts made to improve the quality of living within the city. Is Huntsville prepared for the growing pains?
"We have got to make sure that as we grow, we keep up with all the qualities that have made us grow in the past," said Mayor Battle.
Right now, Huntsville is the fourth largest city in Alabama. Demographers with Huntsville project the city slipping past Mobile in two years, passing Montgomery in four years and growing larger than Birmingham by 2022.
Huntsville's Long Range Planning Manager, Dennis Madsen, says the city has successfully built roads that support a large amount of commuters and daily traffic, but how will we handle the jump from 191,000 to 217,000?
"The idea that you can continue to add lanes and pave and pave your way out of congestion has throughout the United States proved to be ineffective," Madsen offered.
Huntsville aims to bring diversity to our transportation scene though walking and biking paths near core areas.
"Every trip you take out of a car and put it on a sidewalk or bike is one less trip and it gets more performance out of the road network," Madsen added.
It's imperative for the city to offer experiences, too.
"Great art spots or a nightlife or go to the theater or symphony. Those things will over time going to decide how much we grow," said Madsen.
"All that is part of the strategy of having a good quality of life and a good job base," added Mayor Battle.
Over time as the city is projected to grow, Huntsville will form its own marketable identity and that character will attract even more people, city leaders hope.
"How are we going to be the next Huntsville, and really the question is what does that look like?" Madsen asked.
"We are not fighting to be the biggest but we're fighting to be the best," Mayor Battle emphasized.