[Note: this post has been edited with new formatting, and updated information in italics. 11/30/18]
The Cecil Ashburn corridor project is a road widening project that includes both Cecil Ashburn Drive and Sutton Road in southeast Huntsville. The project extents are from Donegal Drive to Taylor Road, and the plan is to widen Cecil Ashburn to be a 4-lane road with large raised median and 8′ shoulders on either side, and to widen Sutton Road to match the existing cross-section east of Taylor Road which has 5 lanes including a center turning lane.
The intersection of this corridor with Old Big Cove Road will have increased capacity with the addition of multiple through and turn lanes from Cecil Ashburn Dr, Sutton Rd, and northbound Old Big Cove Rd. Intersection delay will be reduced. Full schematics can be seen here, as listed on the City of Huntsville Infrastructure Bid page.
According to project rebidding documents, the Cecil Ashburn corridor project has been reconsidered in two phases.
The first phase consists of a complete closure of the corridor on the mountain from Avalon Drive to Old Big Cove Road to all traffic for 10-14 months while certain construction activities (blasting, clearing, roadbed stabilization and reconstruction, etc) take place. Some construction on Sutton Road will take place simultaneously.
In order to consider the first phase complete, these activities must be completed to the degree that two lanes (one in each direction) are open to vehicular traffic 24/7, with appropriate temporary signals and striping in place. Monetary incentives exist for completing work in less than 12 months, whereas disincentives have been put in place for every day that time period is exceeded, up to 14 months. This incentive/penalty is equal to $30K/day, to a maximum of +/- $2M.
After Phase I is complete, additional construction work will continue for another 4-8 months, to open the remaining two lanes of traffic on the mountain, continue to widen Sutton Road, and install permanent traffic control devices and markings. There are also three optional project add-ons for traffic signals and utilities (Huntsville Utilities water main and fiber optic cable duct).
Altogether, the construction timeline is 540-650 days (18-22 months).
Typical cross-sections for Cecil Ashburn Drive are shown below:
As of November 26th, four firms have submitted bids on this corridor project, ranging from $18M to $27M for base bids, and $1.5M to $3.8M for the options.
In Spring 2018, when the corridor project was first let, two firms submitted bids, both of which significantly exceeded the original budget of $15M, due in part to temporary traffic control measures that allowed weekday peak period commuting on the corridor. In light of cost, safety, and timeliness concerns, the project was rebid in Fall 2018 with an increased budget, modified options, and without intermittent openings.
Pending verification of requirements, contractor selection, and City Council approval on December 6th, 2018, City officials anticipate that the Cecil Ashburn project will be given a Notice to Proceed on January 7th, 2019.
GrowCove members have been working with the City of Huntsville, Town of Gurley, Madison County, and State DOT to try to coordinate various aspects of the project and mitigate potential issues within the Cove as well as alternate routes.
One such effort is our upcoming Ridesharing Options Open House to be held at Rivertree Church (652 Taylor Rd) on Monday, December 10th, 2018.
Other efforts by GrowCove to encourage reconsideration of timing towards a summer start (thus allowing completion of improvements on Governor’s Drive and the Rock Cut Road area, several relevant local planning studies, and the school year, prior to introducing new travel patterns) have not been successful. The City indicated that discussions with potential contractors revealed their preference for certain construction activities during certain seasons, to balance their workload with other projects and potentially save time. However, time or cost savings were not immediately quantifiable.
Pending City Council approval of the project, City officials are planning a news conference on December 7th to discuss the construction timeline in more detail and additional congestion mitigation efforts.
Additional Cecil Ashburn Drive Corridor Project Details can be found here: https://www.huntsvilleal.gov/roadworkprojects/cecil-ashburn-boulevard/