On Friday, Sept 7th, 2018, representatives of GrowCove and the City of Huntsville met at Goldsmith-Schiffman Elementary School to have a conversation based on Cove community concerns regarding the proposed Cecil Ashburn / Sutton Road corridor project.
A total of 30-40 people were present, evenly split between the City of Huntsville and GrowCove. From the City, participants included Mayor Tommy Battle, as well as key personnel in engineering, planning, transit, traffic engineering, and public safety. A big THANK YOU to everyone who came!
A list of concerns was provided to the City in advance of the meeting, and each party gave a short presentation, which were then followed by a Question and Answer session. A copy of the City presentation is not available, but it was formatted to address a portion of the concerns that were initially mentioned by GrowCove with relation to this project.
- Minimize disruption and costs (both direct and externalized)
- Maximize safety, smooth traffic flow, communication, and accordance with local plans/goals/objectives
In order to achieve these goals, GrowCove requested that the City complete a number of items prior to any phases of construction involving full closure of Cecil Ashburn:
- alternative route upgrades
- viable alternative mode / ridesharing implementation
- various plans relating to efficient, safe, orderly, and cost-effective implementation
- pre-emptive mitigation of certain business and resident impacts
At the meeting, the City provided a status update for some of the items above and engaged in dialogue with citizens. Based on this feedback, some issues have been satisfactorily addressed. E.g., There will be no roadside site work while Cecil Ashburn is open to traffic (as originally considered as a time-saving measure when rebidding the project), and the resurfacing of Governors will likely be less impactful than originally anticipated (only one lane at a time will be resurfaced, in small segments at night, over the span of a few months). There seems to be a plan in place for various emergency services, though the details will need to be better publicized.
However, other questions remain that need additional consideration and discussion.
In particular, the sheer number of multi-jurisdictional infrastructure projects and plans proposed in and around the Cove area (including alternative routes to Cecil Ashburn) over the next year is both excellent and stressful, as the addition of Cecil Ashburn to this mix of projects increases disruption and the potential of things going poorly, due to high level of coordination needed between lead entities and general inflexibility of State-led projects.
There are outstanding questions and detailed solutions to be determined regarding costs, travel demand management measures (flex-time, working with schools and employers re: schedules, vanpool and transit possibilities), quantification of impacts on the corridor and nearby routes (as gleaned from a corridor study), safety and completeness of bicycle accommodations, and disruption of geological features and effect on nearby homes (if any).
Additionally, the results of various plans and studies (in process) that guide a future vision of the Cove and its regional context would provide more information on efficiently addressing commuter and transit needs.
Overall, we want to have well-planned, complete, safe alternatives to travelling on the Cecil Ashburn corridor, before any construction is begun. GrowCove will work with the city to publicize alternative routes and modes, as well as coordinating with our community and surrounding communities where we can. The proposed timeline of letting this project and starting construction in January, however, is likely prohibitively short in terms of achieving identified goals and recommendations.