This page contains information and visual documentation regarding the Cecil Ashburn road project, which commenced on January 7th, 2019, and is expected to be completed mid-2020.  The most recent news and photos are at the top of the “UPDATES” section.

General Overview:

This infrastructure project involves widening Cecil Ashburn Drive from 2 lanes to 4 lanes between Donegal Drive and Old Big Cove Road, with a raised median and wide shoulders on each side. The pavement and geometric design will be upgraded to address various safety concerns. This project also widens Sutton Road from 2 lanes to 5 lanes between Old Big Cove Road and Tayor Road to match the existing cross-section east of Taylor Road. Intersections and utilities will be improved.

Cecil Ashburn Project Extents (from COH Public Involvement Meeting, Sept 2016)

More details can be found here:

Work on the Cecil Ashburn Corridor project is 100% funded by the City of Huntsville according to multiple City documents and plans.

Project Schedule:

As per an email discussion with COH Project Manager, Alan Clements in January 2019, the general schedule is shown below.

Note that this schedule is tentative, and updates will be posted to the city project webpage if it changes. GrowCove will also be periodically checking in and relaying news to this page.  As of Mid-April 2019, Phase I is on schedule to be completed in October.

PROJECT UPDATES

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

Here is some new drone video of the corridor from neighbor Jeffrey Cosby.

As seen in the drone video, some changes in the last month of work include more pavement and slope stabilization in place on the corridor. As per the City of Huntsville (status update dated June 12th):

“The contractor remains on schedule to reopen two lanes of traffic in October 2019. The project is expected to be fully complete by May 2020.

Clearing operations and blasting are complete with the exception of minor adjustments as needed to finalize grading. Utility relocations are also near complete.

The contractor is approximately 90% complete with the storm drainage installation. Approximately 1,500 feet of water line installation is complete on the west side from Donegal. Water crews have moved to the east side near Sutton Road to begin work.

Additionally, the contractor has installed approximately 2,000 feet of asphalt on the east side along the new lanes and will begin placement of asphalt from the west side in late June 2019.”

Meanwhile, resurfacing of Governor’s Drive (SR-431) began on Tuesday, June 11th, at approximately 6pm. The state route was due to be resurfaced as part of its routine maintenance cycle, and had been programmed in mid-2018 to begin in Spring 2019. Negotiations between the City of Huntsville and ALDOT resulted in the 431 project being pushed off until Summer 2019, while school is out and local traffic is somewhat reduced.

In the process of resurfacing, ALDOT is upgrading the asphalt with a more permeable Open Graded Friction Course (OGFC) to reduce standing water and hydroplaning during and after rain events, and has led to crash reductions upwards of 50% in other locations where this material has been installed. The same OGFC asphalt layer will also be installed on Cecil Ashburn to improve safety.

431 resurfacing is taking place at night (6pm or 8pm until 6am) one lane at a time, on weeknights only. While necessary and programmed almost a year ago, the co-occurrence of this maintenance project with Cecil Ashburn closure has exacerbated traffic issues as an evening or night-time crash in a single-lane section now has the potential to take 431 out of commission as well, causing large detours to US-72 or [the discouraged] Green Mountain Road.

ALDOT promises to complete the 431 project prior to school starting again on August 5th. For many Cove residents and travelers, that can’t come soon enough…

 

 

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Aerial photos of the corridor project were taken yesterday by the photo contractor, Marty Sellers. A video montage of the photos can be seen below. Thanks, Marty!

Since early May, approximately half of Cecil Ashburn between the old Land Trust parking area and Old Big Cove Road has been paved, and is in good enough condition for occasional emergency vehicle traversal, though it will not be open to the public for some time. Phase 1, which includes 24/7 access in both directions is still on track to be completed in October.

As reported at the quarterly MPO meeting on May 22nd, the regional project update from ALDOT estimated that the Cecil Ashburn / Sutton Road corridor project would cost $22M.

In comparison, it was budgeted at $15M in the 2040 Transportation Plan (see Table 10.4, as adopted March 2015 and amended December 2016), and approved by City Council in December 2018 at a cost of $18.4M, including $460K paid by Huntsville Utilities. An additional early completion bonus of up to $2M is also available to the contractors, if they are able to reopen the corridor (Phase 1) 60+ days before January 7, 2020. They are currently on schedule to achieve the full incentive.

 

Sunday, May 12th, 2019

“Clearing operations are complete and blasting operations are approximately 90% complete. The contractor is approximately 65% complete with the storm drainage installation and is coordinating with multiple utility companies to begin relocation efforts.

AT&T, Comcast, & Huntsville electrical have completed their relocations. Water line installation has begun. Once all utility work is complete, construction of the new roadway subgrade will begin shortly thereafter.

The project is expected to be fully complete by May 2020. The contractor is currently on schedule to restore two-way travel on the roadway by October 2019. Project completion is anticipated to extend an additional 8-10 months.” – City of Huntsville, May 8th, 2019

Drone Video from today, courtesy of Jeffrey Cosby:

A complete closure is certainly safer to undertake during this major road construction, versus intermittent closure, in consideration of the terrain and blasting. However, it is not without impact, as reported by the Huntsville Business Journal on April 30th.

 

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019

Paving began on the Cove end of the corridor yesterday. Meanwhile, more excavation is being undertaken on the Jones Valley side near Donegal to make space for additional travel lanes.  Specifically, workers are using line drills to remove rock, rather than explosives, in areas near homes to minimize potential structure damage. Crews have also been preparing Sutton Road for widening, occasionally instituting 1-lane traffic patterns to accommodate construction vehicles.

Curb, Gutter, and New Asphalt on Cecil Ashburn – April 23rd

Excavating rock via line drilling near Donegal – April 24th

Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Lots of construction progress in the last few weeks – officials are estimating that Phase I (two lanes open 24/7) will be complete in October.

An email from COH Head of Engineering, Kathy Martin, PE to City Council representatives shows the following status updates:

Here is the latest update on the Cecil Ashburn widening project from City of Huntsville Engineering. Bottom line–we are on schedule for completion!

Posted by District 3 – Huntsville, Ala City Council on Monday, April 15, 2019

The first layer of asphalt will be laid by the end of the month, and curb and gutter are being placed this week.

Curb & Gutter on Cecil Ashburn, April 2019 (photo courtesy of construction crew)

A local news update from WAFF with drone footage can be seen at this link: http://www.waff.com/2019/04/16/cecil-ashburn-drive-construction-right-track-paving-starting/

GrowCove’s own Brad Garland was interviewed on his experience, which has included carpooling a few days per week and  adjusting his daily schedule to compensate for added traffic. #ReduceRerouteRescheduleOrRideTogether for a better commute this year.

Further, Brad and the GrowCove and CoveMonkey teams have worked hard to support the community and local businesses this spring via new events, food trucks, and pushing forward the small area planning process so that residents have a better handle on local growth and needs, and can provide some community direction as development pressure increases from various economic development initiatives and new transportation capacity to the Cove.

More photos can be seen on Marty Seller’s website, as contracted by the City of Huntsville to provide documentation. Click on the first photo, and “right” or “left arrow” your way through the stack.

https://www.sellersphoto.com/cecilashburn

Finally, what’s a news update in Rocket City without some related explosions? See if you can spot the wires.

 

The blasting in general has been kept very small, and GrowCove has not received reports about damage to adjacent homes, which underwent a pre-blast survey prior to the start of the corridor project. Neighbors on Donegal Dr spoke with WAAY recently on the topic, and are “cautiously optimistic” as the City has been responsive to their concerns.

 

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

Here are some videos from the crew on the mountain. As per the schedule above, blasting is expected to continue through the spring, for around 4-6 weeks, until rock excavation is complete.

According to workers, all the rain in February did not dampen progress too much, and erosion controls and other protections were in place to minimize sliding soils.

 

From the COH website update, dated March 28th, 2019:

“There have been 81 days of work on the project and although there have been significant wet and cold weather events since January, the contractor continues to make progress on-site with very few days off. The contractor currently has 39 pieces of drilling and excavation equipment on site with ten additional dump trucks to relocate excess material.

Clearing operations are complete and blasting operations are approximately 80% complete. The contractor is approximately 60% complete with the storm drainage installation and is coordinating with multiple utility companies to begin relocation efforts. To date, Huntsville Utilities has completed electrical relocation and others are scheduled to begin their work next month.

The contractor will also begin installation of the new water line next month in an effort to complete all utility work and will begin to construct the new roadway subgrade shortly thereafter.

The project is expected to be fully complete by May 2020. The contractor is currently on schedule to restore two-way travel on the roadway by October 2019. Project completion is anticipated to extend an additional 8-10 months.”

 

 

Sunday, March 17th, 2019

A new set of aerial photographs has been published by Marty Sellers, who is contracted by COH to perform monthly flyovers of the site. Thanks Marty for sharing!

A direct link is here: https://www.sellersphoto.com/p77305470

Several new photos on the ground from the City of Huntsville are here: 1 (utilities), 2 (electrical), 3, 4, 5

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Despite the epic rains that fallen over the last week, “city leaders say construction stayed on schedule”.

“The crew is almost finished clearing away trees. They are laying storm drain at the east and west end of the Cecil Ashburn and are halfway through the blasting portion of the project. Those blasts normally take place twice a day.”

COH Director of Engineering Kathy Martin “says she hopes Huntsville Utilities, city traffic engineers, and some of the fiberoptic companies will be on site next week to start relocating some lines near the east end of the project. Because of that, people who live on the Old Big Cove side of Cecil Ashburn may see more construction activity next week.”

However, hikers and others are warned not to go past roadblocks near the construction site or they may be cited for trespassing.  (From WHNT, 2/21/19)

For those interested in some of the technical details, the online Construction Equipment Guide magazine recently published an article on this infrastructure project. GrowCove was instrumental in mitigating adverse travel impacts resulting from full closure. Read the article here!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

“The seventh week of work is underway, and the contractor is 90% complete with clearing and grubbing operations and is 50% complete with blasting operations. Their focus continues to be on moving material and installing storm drainage on the east and west sides of the project. There are thirty-four pieces of equipment on site performing these tasks Monday thru Saturday between 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Subcontractors continue work on Sunday to have the site prepared for excavation work to begin on Monday. The site is an active construction zone with many large pieces of equipment and slippery surfaces with blasting operations occurring daily. The City of Huntsville would caution citizens that the area is closed to vehicular, pedestrian and bicycles for safety reasons. No trespassing signs have been installed.”

(Status from City of Huntsville, 2/13/19)

Photos (from a friend of GrowCove):

 

Friday, February 8th, 2019

From the City of Huntsville.

Blasting Video – ” Four drill rigs are mobilized to perform blasting operations, and seven excavators remove the excavated material and debris. The blasting has gone exceptionally well and the blasts are strategically targeted. The largest blast of the Cecil Ashburn project has occurred”

Photos1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

Photo Gallery (via Drone from a friend of GrowCove):

Additional Photos

Marty Sellers Photography, as contracted by the City of Huntsville for monthly aerials

Click the first photo in this link, and then “right arrow” your way through the stack.

Monday, January 14th, 2019

A test blast was performed late Monday afternoon, and the 4+ month excavation process (including drilling, blasting, and rock placement in spoil areas) will be underway soon. As per the city project website, residents in the vicinity can request a photographic survey to document their structure if they haven’t already done so and are concerned about damages from blasting. Terpo Seismograph Services has been retained to perform these baseline surveys free of charge to homeowners.

Friday, January  11th, 2019

Day 5 of the project, with photos from a friend of GrowCove. As of COB Thursday, clearing and grubbing (i.e removal of trees, shrubs, stumps, etc) was 60% done, according to Shane Davis, COH Director of Urban & Economic Development.

(See Jan 10th City Council Video, approx 1hr 12 min into session.)

Photo Gallery:

 

Video:

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Official Beginning of Construction on Cecil Ashburn