Old Highway 20, portion of Greenbrier Parkway, opens to public Friday
Published on April 15, 2021
Traffic moving in and out of Huntsville’s booming western corridor should flow much smoother with the dual openings of Old Highway 20 from Greenbrier Parkway to County Line Road and Greenbrier Parkway between Old Highway 20 and Mooresville Road.
Both projects will be open to through traffic beginning Friday, April 16. The multimillion dollar improvements were part of the City’s infrastructure commitment to the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant, expected to begin production later this year.
“The opening of these two long-awaited projects is good news for not only Huntsville’s citizens, but also our partners in the City of Madison and Madison and Limestone counties,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “These improvements were part of our commitment to Mazda Toyota and should help provide safe travel here and back for their thousands of workers. These projects will also easily accommodate any additional western corridor growth on the horizon.”
Shane Davis, Director of Urban and Economic Development for Huntsville, said the infrastructure investments were part of a post-recession vision to create a jobs corridor for not just Huntsville, but the entire Tennessee Valley.
“Today, these investments in infrastructure have contributed to 16,000 new jobs and increased the tax base to support other parts of our community and the education system,” he said.
Old Highway 20
The changes to Old Highway 20 are considerable. Prior to the improvements, the two-lane, open-shoulder road was primarily used by local farmers and commuters who wanted a less-congested route to Interstate 565 from County Line Road. The road also included an unimproved rail crossing with no crossing gate.
The new and improved Old Highway 20 is now five lanes with a curb and gutter that can easily accommodate bicyclists. It also includes two elevated bridges – one over the Norfolk-Southern rail line and the other over Beaver Dam Creek.
“We’re hoping this new five-lane road will ease congestion in the area and provide much-needed improved access from the east,” said Kathy Martin, Huntsville’s Director of Engineering.
The four-phase Old Highway 20 project began in 2019. The bridges were built within a short six-month window that started last fall.
Improvements to Old Highway 20 cost nearly $35 million, which included support from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, who helped secure $8 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant funding to offset the cost of the Norfolk Southern bridge.
The new 5.5-mile section of Greenbrier Parkway includes two elevated, 1,600-foot-long bridges over Limestone Creek and an elevated bridge over another Norfolk Southern rail line and storage yard. There are also plans to add street lighting and new traffic signals at the Mazda Toyota campus and Mooresville Road, though work on that will continue after the road opens.
About 4.5 miles of Greenbrier Parkway, from just west of Mooresville Road to Huntsville-Brownsferry Road, is still under construction. When completed, it will serve as a major 10-mile route between Interstate 565 and Interstate 65 to provide direct access for workers and suppliers in and out of the Mazda Toyota campus and many others in the community.
“The opening of these roads will allow motorists to have access to the Parkway from all directions,” Martin said.
To the south of Greenbrier Parkway, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has completed improvements to the interchange at I-565. To the north, ALDOT is improving an existing interchange at I-65 (Exit 347) to accommodate the new Greenbrier Parkway.
The project cost of Greenbrier Parkway to date is $60 million, to include $4 million in U.S. Department of Transportation funds secured by Sen. Shelby and an additional $2 million from ALDOT.
In 2018, the Huntsville City Council approved a seventh tax increment financing district, or TIF, to fund infrastructure improvements for the area. The TIF allows the City to issue bonds and then repay those bonds through property tax revenue collected off increased property values.
Davis said the TIF, combined with the passage of the 21st Century Manufacturing Zone legislation, helped bring the projects to fruition in a fiscally responsible way.
“The plan was always to create this environment without increasing taxes or diverting capital funds away from other important community projects,” he said.