Growing pains – Is the Madison County area growing too fast?

The overpass construction on South Memorial Parkway is slated to be completed this summer – ahead of schedule.

We’ve seen the announcements of big-time companies opening here over the past couple years.

Toyota-Mazda.

Remington.

Polaris.

Facebook.

Blue Origin.

GE Aviation.

Along with these companies and many others come thousands of jobs.

And those thousands of people will be getting back and forth to those thousands of jobs on highways that weren’t built to handle the extra capacity.

And our elected officials know that, as well. After all, several of them know what it’s like to be on Memorial Parkway or I-565 or Hughes Road or U.S. 72 now, let alone in the coming months.

So, when can we expect some relief?

Unfortunately, there’s no immediate relief in sight.

Officials say some work is in the 10-year plan so that makes it 10 years down the road or maybe, if we’re lucky, it’s in year 5 of the plan.

In fact, one study cited that an I-565 widening project, if it had the necessary money today, wouldn’t be ready for us until about 10 years from now.

A major issue – around here anyway – in the recent gubernatorial campaign was Gov. Kay Ivey’s declaration that widening I-565 was a priority of her administration and the Alabama Department of Transportation.

More than 60,000 cars a day travel the freeway between I-65 and Huntsville (although sometimes it seems more like 600,000 cars on our version of Talladega) and this is before Toyota-Mazda ramps up with its 4,000-plus jobs and several thousand more spinoff jobs at its Huntsville-Limestone County plant.

Though ALDOT and the governor say I-565 is on a front-burner, they didn’t say how many burners were on the stove.

And, there was this caveat from an ALDOT spokesman: “We are actively looking at options for I-565 within the scope of budget limitations and other projects across the entire state.”

Hughes Road

Until recently, Hughes Road was the primary north-south artery for Madison.

Fortunately for the fastest-growing city in the state, County Line Road was widened to four lanes and connects U.S. 72 with I-565. It is handling, so far, the traffic flow on the western edge of Madison County.

Unfortunately, Hughes Road, on the city’s eastern side, is still two lanes from U.S. 72 to Brownsferry Road/Old Madison Pike. And, unfortunately again, it doesn’t connect with the interstate.

But, there are plans – according to the city’s 2013-19 Capital Improvement Plan – to widen Hughes Road to five lanes.

Memorial Parkway

Needless to say, it seems that work on Memorial Parkway – basically Huntsville’s lone north-south artery – is never ending.

From the overpass work on North Parkway a few years ago to the current overpass work on South Parkway, it seems Huntsville is the orange barrel capital of the world.

Well, good news. There is an end in sight.

The South Parkway overpasses should be finished in the next few weeks thus bringing an end to what Mayor Tommy Battle called “disruptive construction.”

Cecil Ashburn Drive

The road – a much-needed relief thoroughfare for commuters to bypass Governors Drive and more easily reach south Huntsville – opened in 2002.

However, with homes opening on the south side of Monte Sano and those motorists coming into the city to work, it didn’t take long for the two-lane road to be at capacity.

In fact, nearly 18,000 motorists daily travel the winding road between U.S. 431 and Bailey Cove Road.

So, now it’s time for the road to be widened to four lanes – though some have said that city leaders should have anticipated the growth on the eastern side of town and the road should have been four lanes from the outset.

Construction was set for May but it was pushed back due budget and bidding problems. So, some time this year or next year, Cecil Ashburn Road may be closed for more than a year while the widening takes place.

And those 18,000 motorists? Oh, they’ll join the nearly 30,000 motorists who currently drive U.S. 431/Governors Drive.