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Officials give updates on Zierdt Road and Martin Road projects

HUNTSVILLE — More than a dozen citizens raised questions and concerns at a town hall meeting March 12 that served to provide an update on the Zierdt Road and Martin Road projects.

Huntsville’s District 5 Councilman Will Culver was joined by several officials dealing with the projects, including Huntsville City Engineer Kathy Martin and Garver Senior Project Manager Scott Leach.

At the start of the meeting, Culver asked the audience who was “singularly frustrated” by the road projects, and the vast majority of attendees raised their hands.

“We’re all frustrated with it,” he said. “Some of the things that have slowed us down has been the weather. Zierdt Road flooded. We had to shut it down. … What we’re going to do now to expedite this project … we’re going to kind of redirect some of our construction. What we’re working on now, we’re going to move it further down towards Madison Boulevard.”

From there, Culver said construction will move down Zierdt Road to get the road open “as quickly as we can.”

The main complaint from citizens was the slowness of the projects, and while officials were able to give an estimated time of completion, the answer did not offer much peace of mind: spring 2021 for Martin Road and fall 2022 for Zierdt Road.

Kathy Martin, an engineer with the City of Huntsville, speaks to citizens at the town hall meeting. (Record Photo/Kendyl Hollingsworth)

Martin told attendees that the Zierdt Road project is in its fourth and final phase. The project, which began construction in 2015, was divided into multiple phases because Redstone Arsenal owned all the property on the east side of the existing Zierdt Road. Martin said this final phase entails constructing the southbound lanes to two intersections: Martin Road and Madison Boulevard. It also involves a new 12-foot multi-use path for bicyclists and pedestrians on the west side of Zierdt. “That’s what you see that’s going on right now,” she said.

Because of the excessive rain and the way contracts work with the state, Martin said there have only been about 40 working days in the past five months.

“Unfortunately, these two roads—Martin and Zierdt—are in a swamp,” she said. “We know that because both roads have flooded here recently, and the good news is the construction of the intersection will raise both Martin and Zierdt roads by about four feet. We’re having to fight the weather conditions and get the utility crews in here to relocate some of the utilities before they can finish that.”

In all three phases to this point, Martin said the Zierdt Road project totals about $26 million, and it is part of a 425-working-day contract.

When the Zierdt Road project is complete, it will be a four-lane divided roadway with a multi-use path on the west side.

“With widening Zierdt Road about 400-600 feet south of Martin Road, that’s going to fix the lion’s share of our property in conjunction with widening Martin Road from Zierdt all the way in … to the international airport,” Culver added.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Martin Road project is in its first phase, going from Zierdt to Old Jim Williams Road. When Martin Road is complete, it will be a five-lane road with four-foot bike lanes on both sides. It will also feature a curb-and-gutter design and a five-foot sidewalk on both sides. “This area will be extremely bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly when it’s all said and done,” Martin added. The contract allocates 350 working days for Phase I of the Martin Road project.

Phase II of Martin Road will run from Old Jim Williams Road west to Laracy Drive. The right of way acquisition is complete, and construction on that is expected to start later this year, according to Martin.

Senior Project Manager Scott Leach of Garver, LLC lays out some of the details of the projects to citizens at the town hall meeting. (Record Photo/Kendyl Hollingsworth)

Aside from all the rain, Leach said utilities have been a “major issue” for both projects. Federally funded projects are categorized as either reimbursable or non-reimbursable based on annual gross revenue. Unfortunately, Leach said these two projects are not receiving help from the government to cover the costs to move those utilities. Provisions in the contract for both projects included “estimated completion dates” to have those utilities moved, but Leach said none of those utilities have met the dates in those provisions.

“On the bright side, they are starting to move, but we can no longer wait,” Leach said. “As we mentioned, we’re looking at changing the sequence of construction. We’re going to go ahead and build the curb and gutter along the northbound lanes as much as possible working up towards Madison Boulevard. We’re looking at also installing a temporary traffic signal at the Mountain Brook entrance. The City of Madison has issued that work order for it to be complete.”

Leach said both the Zierdt Road and Martin Road projects are categorized as priority projects. As for Martin Road, a few aspects already complete include some temporary widening, waterline construction and relocation of the sanitary sewer line across Betts Spring. Traffic cannot be shifted to the widened area until utilities are out of the way.

“Hard widening started in sequence of construction on the Zierdt Road project to begin at Martin Road intersection is so we can accommodate that traffic shift when the traffic is shifted to the widened pavement along the north side of Martin Road so that we have less disruption on traffic by having them shift back and forth as you approach the intersection,” Leach explained. Right now, however, that area is underwater, and Leach said nothing can be done.

Completion of the last communication line is in the works, and Leach said Redstone Arsenal has tentatively scheduled to switch over to the new lines in about three weeks. After that is over and done, the area will be free for more work to be done.

“All of us know that it is frustrating,” Leach said. “We’re doing everything we can do to move this project along and complete as much work as possible. The contractors are biting at the bit to get work done. They have equipment, personnel and folks that they had scheduled to do work that they’re unable to do. The weather has been another major factor, as y’all know as well.”

While the weather has put a kink in these projects recently, Leach said they have come up with a solution to allow clogged pipes to be jetted from outside Redstone Arsenal to prevent more major floods in the future. Good weather is also essential to make sure the ground can support the new roads.

Martin said the last informational meeting on these project was in November 2017, but Culver said he plans to host a town hall meeting once a month from now until October.

More information on the projects will become available for viewing online in the near future. For general updates on roadwork in Huntsville, visit huntsvilleal.gov/roadworkupdates.

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