Huntsville applies for federal grant for its ‘skybridge’ project

This artists rendering of the PARC project, often dubbed the “skybridge,”  depicts bicyclists and pedestrians on a suspended bridge over U.S. 231 and U.S. 431. (City of Huntsville)

Many Huntsviliians have heard talk of a project in the city that would include a suspended bridge over some Huntsville’s busiest roadways. The project, officially called the pedestrian access and redevelopment corridor, or PARC, has taken on the common name of the “skybridge” since word of the project was introduced.

The City of Huntsville applied for a $25 million Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the project, and will find out in August if the grant was approved.

What, exactly, is the PARC project?

The PARC project was originally discussed nearly two decades ago as a flood mitigation effort to reduce the floodplains along Pinhook Creek. (City of Huntsville)

The PARC project was originally put on the table about 20 years ago as a flood mitigation effort to reduce the floodplains along Pinhook Creek through the downtown core as well as address pedestrian access. The project was placed on hold until 2016 when officials resurrected the plan.

“The floodplain creates unusable land and prevents improvements to be made to existing structures within downtown. (PARC) will provide a larger channel with usable recreation space to help reduce flood elevations and allow improvements to the downtown landscape, to include many added benefits of greenway and sidewalk connectivity and safety improvements as they relate to alternate modes of transportation within the area.”

Kathy Martin, Huntsville’s Director of Engineering

Funding for the project remains a challenge, but the RAISE grant would go a long way toward making the plans a reality. In March, the City Council voted to hire the Ferguson Group to write the grant. If the grant is approved in August, Huntsville would commit more than $37 million to offset the remaining costs.

More than just a bridge

PARC meets numerous long-term goals for both infrastructure and connectivity. (City of Huntsville)

The PARC project is more than just a bridge, in that it addresses multiple solutions for the community. The benefits of the project include:

  • It identifies vital greenway connections that make up the Greenway Master Plan.
  • It fills gaps in downtown bike connections included in the City’s Bikeway Plan.
  • PARC would also provide an economic boost to low-income communities by connecting nearly 5,000 people living within a half-mile radius to vital health care and jobs. The City estimates about 22% of those residents live in public housing and more than 26% do not have access to a vehicle.
  • The project will replace the old wooden railroad bridge built in 1939 with a concrete Class I bridge.
  • PARC would also allow the City to create new linear parks, landscaping and hardscapes. New retaining walls would also stop erosion near the Von Braun Center.

Support for PARC project

Mayor Tommy Battle says the project has received endorsements from Gov. Kay Ivey and Sen. Tommy Tuberville. (City of Huntsville)

Mayor Tommy Battle, Gov. Kay Ivey and U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville have all expressed support for PARC. Other groups backing the project include the Huntsville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau and Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments.

“It will not only provide a lifeline to underserved areas, but it will also improve safety and offer a new and unique way for residents and visitors to explore our great city”

Mayor Tommy Battle

Battle said the benefits, as well as support at the local, state and federal levels, are indicative of the transformational nature of the PARC project.

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Michael Seale
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