Road will close for 10 months to expedite construction and minimize disruption for motorists
December 6, 2018
HUNTSVILLE, AL – The City of Huntsville is set to begin critical roadwork in early January to improve safety and increase capacity on Cecil Ashburn Drive, one of the City’s most heavily trafficked corridors.
Listed as a priority improvement project in Huntsville’s “Restore Our Roads” agreement with the Alabama Department of Transportation, contractors will widen Cecil Ashburn Drive from two to four lanes over an 18-month period.
To expedite construction and shorten the project’s timeline, Cecil Ashburn Drive will close January 7, and the contractor will be incentivized to reopen two lanes of traffic within 10 months. Remaining work is expected to be complete six to eight months later with all lanes open by May 2020.
To keep the project on track or ahead of schedule, the contractor may earn up to $2 million in performance bonuses. Conversely, the builder will be financially penalized up to $2 million for schedule delays. This is the same model the City and State used to fast-track overpass construction on South Memorial Parkway, another Restore Our Roads project.
“We changed the scope of the project to save time and money and to minimize the impact on our residents and businesses,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “This schedule provides the least disruption and gets motorists safely back on the road before the 2019 holiday season.”
The base bid on the revised project came in at just under $18 million, nearly $7 million less than a previous round of bidding last May. At that time, the City was working on a construction plan to keep one lane of traffic partially open during peak weekday hours. The plan proved to be a costly, 32-month ordeal that posed additional safety concerns. City engineers went back to the drawing board and believe the new schedule best addresses the needs and concerns of the community.
“We’re saving taxpayers millions of dollars and cutting two years of public pain in the construction process,” said Shane Davis, Director of Economic and Urban Development.
To further minimize disruptions for commuters impacted by the road closure, City departments have been working closely with community organizations and businesses to address needs and concerns related to increased traffic and speeders on alternate routes, ride-sharing options, moving wrecks, accident alerts, and public safety. An easy reference sheet, Commuter 101, is available online with more information on these topics.
“It will take everyone a few weeks to adjust to new routes and schedules, and we’ve found many businesses are willing to offer flex time to help their employees through the transition,” said Dennis Madsen, Long Range Planner. “We’ve had a lot of inquiries about carpools and ride-sharing programs, and the road closure presents an opportunity to explore these options and create some new healthy habits.”
The City will be seeking Council approval to award the construction contract to the low bidder, Carcel & G Construction.
The 3.4-mile road improvement project will widen Cecil Ashburn Drive, from two to four lanes, to improve traffic flow and incorporate safety improvements.
The road is overcapacity with 17,000 vehicles per day traveling through an essential corridor for the City of Huntsville, connecting commuters from East Huntsville, Marshall and Jackson Counties to Downtown Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park and beyond.
Since the road opened in 2000, Cecil Ashburn has recorded 782 accidents and eleven fatalities in the past eleven years. New safety features are expected to address many of these concerns.
In addition to improvement work on Cecil Ashburn Drive, the 18-month project will also include much needed work on Sutton Road between Taylor Road and Old Big Cove Road to accommodate five lanes.
To complete this project safely, quickly and efficiently, all lanes of Cecil Ashburn Drive, between Old Big Cove Road and Donegal Drive will be closed January 7 for crews to begin construction. In 10 months, two lanes of Cecil Ashburn are expected re-open to traffic. All lanes of the completed project are expected to open 8 months later, bringing the total project duration to 18 months.
Budget & Contractor Incentives
Total project cost for the Cecil Ashburn Road Improvement Project is $17,946,909. The project was initially bid in May 2018 with the intention of keeping one lane of travel open during peak traffic times. But the criteria forced bids to come in well over budget, to nearly $25 million, and lengthened the construction timeline to nearly three years.
The contractor may earn $30,000 per day – up to $2 million – for each day work is ahead of schedule or meets the abbreviated construction timeline. The contractor will also be penalized $30,000 per day – up to $2 million – for each day work is behind schedule. This is similar to the incentive program the City and State used with the South Memorial Parkway Restore Our Roads project.
Key Alternate Routes
• Governors Drive via U.S. Hwy 431
• U.S. Hwy 72 via Eastern Bypass/Rock Cut Road
• Memorial Parkway (US 231) via Hobbs Island Road
City departments have worked on the following strategies to minimize disruption during the Cecil Ashburn Drive closure:
• Adjusted traffic signalization on Governors Drive to improve the efficiency of traffic light timing to reduce congestion
• Improved access to Rock Cut Road from the Eastern Bypass
• Adjusted resources for Huntsville Police, Fire & Rescue to ensure they meet increased demand
• Wreck clearance plan for alternate routes
• Anti-speeding enforcement for alternate routes
• Working with local businesses to offer flex-time options for employees
• Promoting money-saving commuter and ride sharing programs
For updates on additional roadwork projects within the City including road closures, visit HuntsvilleAL.gov/RoadworkUpdates