Memorial Parkway (Huntsville)

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Memorial Parkway
Memorial Parkway overpass at Governors Drive.jpg
Memorial Parkway at Governors Drive
Length 18.3 mi[1] (29.5 km)
Location Huntsville, Alabama
North end Bob Wade Lane
(continues as US 231.svgUS 431.svg US 231/431)
Major
junctions
US 72.svg US 72 East / Sparkman Drive
US 72.svg US 72 West / University Drive
I-565.svg Interstate 565
Alabama 53.svg Alabama 53 / Governors Drive
US 431.svg US 431 / Governors Drive
South end Tennessee River
(continues as US 231.svg US 231)

Memorial Parkway, also known as The Parkway, is a major thoroughfare in Huntsville, Alabama[2] that carries over 100,000 vehicles on average a day.[3] It, in whole or in part, follows U.S. Route 231, U.S. Route 431, U.S. Route 72, and State Route 53 through the Huntsville city limits.[4] It is a limited access road through most of Huntsville city proper, providing exits to the frontage road which allow access to road intersections, as well as businesses and residences along the route.[5] Both the limited access and frontage roads are referred to as Memorial Parkway. Originally constructed in the 1950s and officially opened on December 1, 1955, the highway is the major commercial thoroughfare through Huntsville, a status it has held since the mid-1960s.[5][6][7]

General Plan and Structure[edit]

The limited access portions of the Parkway contain eight lanes of traffic; in each direction there are two lanes of limited-access traffic, paralleled by a two-lane, one-way frontage road. At major intersections, the four limited-access lanes overpass the intersecting road with a "camel back" type overpass, while the frontage roads have a signal-controlled intersection with the intersecting road. At each overpass, there is a pair of turn lanes that permit traffic on the frontage roads to make U-turns between the northbound and southbound frontage roads without having to go through the signalized intersection. Generally, in between overpasses, there exists a pair of entrance and exit ramps that allow traffic to transition between the limited-access lanes and the parallel frontage road. Other than at intersections with overpasses, traffic on the frontage road always has the right of way vs. intersecting streets and driveways and there are no other traffic signals. The frontage roads do not exist between the University Drive and Clinton Avenue overpasses; here through traffic must merge into the limited-access lanes.

There are two intersections where the Parkway crosses under the intersecting road, at Martin Road and Interstate 565. Currently the frontage roads end at Martin Road because a non-limited access portion still exists between it and the Whitesburg Drive overpass. It is not currently known how the frontage access will be structured at Martin Road once the non-limited access portion to its south is improved, or whether U-turn lanes for the frontage will be possible. At the I-565 interchange, it is possible for Parkway traffic to make a U-turn by executing a sequence of ramp lane changes, although no signage indicates this.

Most of the non-limited access portions within the Huntsville city limits consists of six through lanes, three in each direction, separated by a median. There are no frontage roads on these portions. Most of the portion north of the Mastin Lake Road intersection consists of four lanes, two in each direction.

Route Description[edit]

An overview of Memorial Parkway

From the south, US 231 / Alabama 53 enters Madison County and the city limits of Huntsville over the Tennessee River via the Clement C. Clay Bridge, which is also known as Whitesburg Bridge. From there, the four lane US 231 takes the name of Memorial Parkway and travels north passing Hobbs Island Road where it widens to six lanes.

Memorial Parkway passes to the east of a Sanmina-SCI Corporation production plant, crossing over Green Cove Road. From there, it continues north, passing beside various businesses and farm lands. The Parkway intersects Hobbs Road just south of the first major shopping center of many, the Southeast Plaza Shopping Center. Continuing due north, the Parkway passes Mountain Gap Road and Meadowbrook Drive.

Just north of Meadowbrook Drive, the first of many overpasses start. Vehicles are directed to exit here to access both Whitesburg Drive and Weatherly Road. Just north of Weatherly Road, the Parkway's controlled access highway merges back to a six-lane highway with traffic signals at Lily Flagg Road, Charlotte Drive, Byrd Spring Road, and Boulevard South. This section of the Parkway is planned to be upgraded to controlled access by 2016. Then a series of overpasses start just north of Martin Road; the first is Golf Road, followed by Airport Road, passing by John Hunt Park.

Following Airport Road, there is a "useless" overpass, as it is referred to by locals since it crosses over no other roadway. This overpass was originally constructed to provide a convenient U-turn as well as allow quicker access to businesses alongside the Parkway.[4] The Parkway continues north with overpasses at Drake and Bob Wallace Avenues, where it passes by Parkway Place Mall.

At Governors Drive, Alabama 53 splits off and travels west and US 231 begins its overlap with US 431. The Parkway continues north with an overpass at Clinton Ave with a full interchange with Interstate 565; this interchange is sometimes referred to as Malfunction Junction. The Parkway has an overpass at US 72 West/University Drive where an additional overlap with US 72 begins. An overpass at Oakwood Ave leads to a current construction zone where crews are working to complete an overpass over Max Luther and Sparkman Drives. At Sparkman Drive, the overlap with US 72 ends as it splits off to the east. US 231/431 continues north with at-grade intersection at Mastin Lake Road, which is planned to have an overpass built by 2021.[8] Memorial Parkway continues north passing by Alabama A&M University with at-grade intersections at Winchester Road, Meridian Street, and Bob Wade Lane, where the Parkway officially ends and continues as US 231/431.

History[edit]

US 231 originally ran down through the center of Huntsville following Meridian Street and Whitesburg Drive through Downtown. Memorial Parkway was built as a four-lane highway in the 1950s to bypass downtown. At the time, the only overpass crossed over Holmes Avenue, with ramps providing access to both from and to the Parkway. There were traffic signals at every other major intersection, plus a number of secondary intersections, many of which were eliminated over the years as part of the limited-access construction. With the establishment of the U.S. Army Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, and the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in the 1960s, Huntsville underwent massive population growth, and, as a result, traffic increased.[9] State and City leaders started planning to make the Parkway a limited access highway and the second overpass, the "useless" overpass, opened in 1969.

In 1973, the Drake Avenue overpass officially opened, followed by an overpass at Bob Wallace Avenue in 1976. An overpass at Governors Drive opened in 1978. In 1986, the University Drive overpass opened, and in the 1990s, overpasses at Airport Road, Golf Road, and Oakwood Avenue opened making a controlled access highway throughout much of the city.

In 1992, the interchange with I-565 opened. The interchange includes a mix of cloverleaf and fly-over ramps to provide full merge-in and merge-out access to both routes. As part of this construction, the original Clinton and Holmes overpasses were torn down and replaced with wider ones incorporating the necessary merge lanes. The access ramps to and from Holmes Avenue were eliminated as part of this work.

In December 2009, overpasses at Whitesburg Drive and Weatherly Road in South Huntsville opened to the public;[10] and an overpass over Sparkman Drive, Max Luther Drive, and US 72 East opened on April 10, 2012.[11] Clearing of the right of way is happening in South Huntsville to make room for service roads for new overpasses at Lily Flagg and Byrd Spring Road. Actual construction on those overpasses was originally scheduled to start in 2016[9] however, the State of Alabama DOT is delaying the project, along with a dozen other road projects in the city, by nearly ten years.[12]

Expansion[edit]

Memorial Parkway's limited access portion is being expanded to include interchanges and frontage roads at various cross streets along the Parkway. Estimated completion dates for significant current Parkway projects are statuses in a quarterly Construction Bulletin[13] from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)'s Bureau of Transportation Planning.

North side[edit]

  • Walker Lane[14]
  • Patterson Lane[14]
  • Meridianville Bottom Road[14]
  • Winchester Road[14]
  • Mastin Lake Road[14]
  • Sparkman Drive/U.S. Route 72 East (completed in April 2012)[15] The overpass crossing Max Luther Drive and Sparkman Drive will open about five months ahead of schedule. Project contractors were Reed Contracting Services, Inc. and Miller & Miller, Inc.[11] The Max Luther Dr & Sparkman Dr overpass was opened northbound 10 April 2012 (southbound opens 11 April 2012)[16]
  • Max Luther Drive (completed in April 2012)[11][15]

South side[edit]

  • Byrd Spring Road[15]
  • Lily Flagg Road[15]
  • Whitesburg Drive/Cameron Road (completed in December 2010)
  • Weatherly Road (completed in December 2010)
  • Mountain Gap Road/Hobbs Road[14]
  • Green Cove Road[14]
  • Hobbs Island Road[14]

Overpasses at Byrd Spring Road and Lily Flagg Road have been planned since 1989[17] but has been pushed back by the state of Alabama. Current delays have pushed the start of construction back until 2019.[18] Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is currently campaigning to get funding for the overpasses.[19]

In popular culture[edit]

Exit list[edit]

Destinations Notes
Meadowbrook Drive West Southbound exit only
Whitesburg Drive, Weatherly Road Also exit for Cameron Road but not signed.
Martin Road, Vermont Road Access is to westbound Martin Road only; there are no ramps to eastbound. This exit provides direct access to Redstone Arsenal Gate 1. Only the southbound ramp includes the Vermont Road signage; it is not accessible from the northbound side. Martin Road is one of the two interchanges where the Parkway crosses under the intersecting road; at all other interchanges other than the I-565 interchange, the Parkway overpasses the intersecting road.
Golf Road
Airport Road, Jones Valley Drive Only the northbound ramp includes the Jones Valley Drive signage; it is not accessible from the southbound side.
Drake Avenue Going northbound, Drake Avenue appears to have two exits because there is a sign that will guide drivers to exit in time for the useless overpass, and another at the appropriate place to exit for Drake Avenue. Both exits lead to the same frontage road. Going southbound, there is an unsigned exit ramp after the Drake Avenue ramp; it also provides access to the useless overpass, and to the entrance to Joe Davis Stadium.
Bob Wallace Avenue
US-431 south / SR-53 north (Governors Drive, SR 1 south) to SR-20 west North end of SR 53 overlap; south end of US 431/SR 1 overlap
Clinton Avenue - Downtown Huntsville Former SR 20. No direct entry to the Parkway southbound from Clinton Avenue; it is necessary to go through a traffic light at Governors Drive to reach an entrance ramp. Although the overpass spans Holmes Avenue, there are no access ramps to or from Holmes.
I‑565 (US 72 Alt.)
US-72 west (University Drive, SR 2 west) South end of US 72/SR 2 overlap. Going northbound, the ramp for University Drive is incorporated into the I-565 interchange.
Oakwood Avenue, Cook Avenue Only the northbound ramp includes the Cook Avenue signage; it is not accessible from the southbound side.
US-72 east / Sparkman Drive, Max Luther Drive North end of US 72/SR 2 overlap. Opened April 10, 2012[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Google Maps. Overview Map of Memorial Parkway (Map). http://maps.google.com/maps?saddr=34.82930,+-86.57151&daddr=34.57508,+-86.56877&hl=en&sll=34.572362,-86.566558&sspn=0.010336,0.01929&geocode=FfRzEwIdCgbX-g%3BFeiSDwIdvhDX-g&vpsrc=0&mra=ls&t=m&z=11. Retrieved 2012-01-10.
  2. ^ "National Affairs: Rocket City, U.S.A.". Time. February 17, 1958. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  3. ^ City of Huntsville Traffic Engineering
  4. ^ a b Marshall, Mike (December 21, 2005). "Parkway: Savior or joke?". Huntsville Times. 
  5. ^ a b Grant, Howard (August 7, 1964). "Redesigning of Parkway is proposed". The Huntsville Times. p. 1. 
  6. ^ "Businessmen Fighting Highway". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. February 20, 1972. p. 5A. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Study shows Huntsville to need highway". Gadsden Times. Associated Press. August 28, 1985. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 
  8. ^ Clines, Keith (March 27, 2011). "Road projects should outpace traffic growth in the coming decade (Outlook 2011)". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved January 10, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Clines, Keith (2 January 2011). "Memorial Parkway overpasses' cost increase significantly over 41 years". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
  10. ^ Clines, Keith (8 April 2012). "Reader says another turn lane needed on Memorial Parkway service road at Weatherly Road". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved 8 April 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c d Roop, Lee (April 6, 2012). "North Memorial Parkway overpasses will be open on Tuesday". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved April 7, 2012. 
  12. ^ Perallon, Daniela (May 10, 2013). "State Delays 13 Major Huntsville Road Projects". WHNT News 19. Retrieved 22 September 2013. 
  13. ^ ALDOT's Construction Bulletin
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h "Long Range Transportation Plan". The City of Huntsville. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c d Road projects should outpace traffic growth in the coming decade (Outlook 2011) -- Huntsville Times blog
  16. ^ Clines, Keith (April 10, 2012). "New northbound limited access lanes on Memorial Parkway open for afternoon commute". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 
  17. ^ "South Memorial Parkway Project at Byrd Springs and Lily Flagg Roads". The City of Huntsville. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Doyle, Steve (10 May 2013). "State transportation department delays 13 'critical' Huntsville road projects". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Doyle, Steve (19 June 2013). "Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle's campaign to speed up Parkway overpass construction gains support". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "A's Canseco reaches majors with a thump". Miami Herald. September 24, 1985. Retrieved March 16, 2010. 

See also[edit]