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Oakwood Avenue has been repaved but what's next for this roadway?

The City plans to reconfigure and re-strip this highly traveled roadway. This has left some nearby residents unhappy.
Credit: City of Huntsville
Oakwood Avenue has been repaved but what's next for this roadway?

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — From Andrew Jackson Way to Maysville Road, Oakwood Avenue has been repaved.

"The road needed to be repaved. There had been a lot of patchwork on this road with either utility or waterworks, those kinds of things, so it was in desperate need of complete repaving. That's a positive thing. The negative thing was the change to the lanes," said Keith Ward, a nearby resident. 

Before being repaved, Oakwood Avenue was a four-lane roadway, divided by a double line.

The City wants to instead, create one eastbound lane, one westbound lane and a two-way left turn lane down the middle.

Huntsville's Urban & Long Range Planning Manager, Dennis Madsen says this could help cut down on wrecks and decrease high-speed driving in the area. 

"When you have two lanes headed in each direction, a lot of times what is happening is your faster traffic is in your left lane, your slower traffics in your right. But when you've got a four-lane section and a lot of driveways on either side, you have a lot of people trying to make left turns out of what is the faster lane. And most data bears this out, they tend to be really bad for accidents, a lot of rear-end accidents, a lot of side-swiping. So a lot of times when we have the opportunity to go from 4 to 3, we like to take it, because the three-lane section was, which is what we'll end up with, is one travel lane in each direction and then a dedicated center turn. So you'll have a refuge from which to make those left turns without having to worry about being rear-ended. But it also gives you a little bit narrower cross-section that can help slow traffic down a bit," said Madsen. 

Ward says this change could call for more wrecks and more traffic in the area: "It would make it more difficult for them to do simple things like backing out of their driveway. And for those that live in the area that use this road on a daily basis, if you have additional traffic crunches that are created by a wreck caused on 565, which would put excess traffic on this road, that would provide really an additional length of time to just try to get from point a to point b."

The City also plans on adding both an eastbound and westbound bike lane on each side of the road.

"We also want to provide safe bike facilities. In the long run, you kind of grow a safe bike network segment by segment and over time, we would love to see that built out more and more so that cyclists feel as safe moving back and forth across the city as drivers do," said Madsen. 

Ward also says this may not be the most beneficial addition to this roadway.

"Most of us have commented that it's very rare that we see a bike driving on this roadway, Oakwood Avenue," said Ward.

When ideas about these changes to Oakwood Avenue first came about, 'Big Picture' meetings were held for public input. 

"When you go and you look at the number of attendees at the meeting, it was an extremely small number 60 or 70 people. And Northeast Huntsville alone has well over 7,000 residents. Most weren't even aware of what was going on until recently," said Ward.

But also according to ward, there's still hope for more community input. 

"If you go to the Big Picture website and you look at the action items, one of the unchecked boxes says finalizing plans for Oakwood Avenue. So if you visit that site, you think this isn't finalized? We still have time to negotiate and talk about this," said Ward.  

That's part of his and his surrounding neighbors' request, a request for a pause on the project. 

"[So we can] have much more community input so that you can really have a good representation of the neighborhood, give their feedback, and then let's move forward with it and make a decision," said Ward. 

    

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