Memorial Parkway (Huntsville)
Memorial Parkway at Governors Drive
|Length||18.3 mi (29.5 km)|
|North end||Bob Wade Lane
(continues as US 231/431)
| US 72 East / Sparkman Drive
US 72 West / University Drive
Alabama 53 / Governors Drive
US 431 / Governors Drive
|South end||Tennessee River
(continues as US 231)
Memorial Parkway, also known as The Parkway, is a major thoroughfare in Huntsville, Alabama that carries over 100,000 vehicles on average a day. 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. 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. 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.
General Plan and Structure
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. Plans for construction under way call for the frontage roads to be raised up to Martin Road's grade and have signalled intersections; it will work like the overpasses except for the over/under relationship being reversed. 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.
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 and Byrd Spring Road. (Previously existing signals at Charlotte Drive and Boulevard South were removed in July 2016.) This section of the Parkway is currently being upgraded to limited access. 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. 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 / Holmes Avenue 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 recently constructed overpass over Max Luther Drive and Sparkman Drive, where the overlap with US 72 ends as it splits off to the east. The Parkway continues north with at-grade intersection at Mastin Lake Road, which is planned to have an overpass built by 2021. 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 the route continues as US 231/431.
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 from and to the Parkway. In the early 1960s, the overpass was extended to make it also span Clinton Avenue. 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. 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; and an overpass over Sparkman Drive, Max Luther Drive, and US 72 East opened on April 10, 2012. As of 2016, work is under way to convert the anomalous non-controlled section between Whitesburg Drive and Martin Road to limited access, which will make the limited access portion continuous from Weatherly Road at the south end to Sparkman Drive at the north end. This work is scheduled to be completed in 2019, but city officials stated in September 2016 that the work is ahead of schedule.
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 from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT)'s Bureau of Transportation Planning.
- Walker Lane
- Patterson Lane
- Meridianville Bottom Road
- Winchester Road
- Mastin Lake Road
- Byrd Spring Road (overpass under construction as of January 2016)
- Lily Flagg Road (overpass under construction as of January 2016)
- Mountain Gap Road/Hobbs Road
- Green Cove Road
- Hobbs Island Road
In popular culture
- Professional baseball player Jose Canseco earned the nickname "Parkway Jose" while playing with the Huntsville Stars for his ability to hit home runs over the outfield fence at Joe Davis Stadium.
|Hobbs Island Road|
|Green Cove Road||Leads to Redstone Arsenal Gate 2|
|Hobbs Road||Leads to Redstone Arsenal Gate 3|
|Mountain Gap Road|
|Begin Controlled Access|
|Weatherly Road||Leads to the site of the new Grissom High School|
|End Controlled Access|
|Lily Flagg Road||Currently being upgraded to a controlled access intersection as of 2016 and expected to open in 2019 |
|Byrd Spring Road||Currently being upgraded to a controlled access intersection as of 2016 and expected to open in 2019 |
|Begin Controlled Access|
|Martin Road||Leads to Redstone Arsenal Gate 1. As of February 2016, this interchange is currently in a temporary, restricted-access configuration. The only access to Martin Road from the Parkway is from the Parkway southbound to Martin Road westbound. From Martin Road, a temporary ramp provides access to northbound Parkway via the service road intersection at Golf Road. Traffic from Martin Road wishing to go to Parkway southbound must take a detour along Whitesburg Drive.|
|Airport Road||Leads to John Hunt Park|
|Drake Avenue||Leads to Redstone Arsenal Gate 8, Parkway Place Mall and Brahan Spring Park|
|Bob Wallace Avenue|
|316.864||509.943||US 431 south (Governors Drive)||Begin overlap with US 431. End overlap with SR 53.|
|Clinton Avenue||Access Downtown Huntsville|
|US 72 (US-72 West/University Drive)||Begin overlap with US 72|
|Max Luther Drive|
|US 72 (US-72 East) and Sparkman Drive||End overlap with US 72|
|End Controlled Access|
|Mastin Lake Road||Will be upgraded to controlled access intersection in 2017|
|Bob Wade Lane|
|1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
|Meadowbrook Drive West||Southbound exit only|
|Whitesburg Drive, Weatherly Road||Also exit for Cameron Road but not signed.|
|Lily Flagg Road||Under construction|
|Byrd Spring Road||Under construction|
|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. As of January 2016, this is being rebuilt as part of the Byrd Spring Road / Lily Flagg Road overpass construction. When it is complete, the service roads will have at-grade intersections with Martin 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|
- Overview Map of Memorial Parkway (Map). Google Maps. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
- "National Affairs: Rocket City, U.S.A.". Time. February 17, 1958. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
- City of Huntsville Traffic Engineering
- Marshall, Mike (December 21, 2005). "Parkway: Savior or joke?". Huntsville Times.
- Grant, Howard (August 7, 1964). "Redesigning of Parkway is proposed". The Huntsville Times. p. 1.
- "Businessmen Fighting Highway". The Tuscaloosa News. Associated Press. February 20, 1972. p. 5A. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
- "Study shows Huntsville to need highway". Gadsden Times. Associated Press. August 28, 1985. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
- Clines, Keith (March 27, 2011). "Road projects should outpace traffic growth in the coming decade (Outlook 2011)". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
- Clines, Keith (January 2, 2011). "Memorial Parkway overpasses' cost increase significantly over 41 years". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
- Clines, Keith (April 8, 2012). "Reader says another turn lane needed on Memorial Parkway service road at Weatherly Road". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved April 8, 2012.
- Roop, Lee (April 6, 2012). "North Memorial Parkway overpasses will be open on Tuesday". The Huntsville Times. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
- "South Parkway Project Ahead of Schedule". WHNT.com. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- ALDOT's Construction Bulletin
- "Long Range Transportation Plan" (PDF). The City of Huntsville. Retrieved August 4, 2012.
- Road projects should outpace traffic growth in the coming decade (Outlook 2011) -- Huntsville Times blog
- "A's Canseco reaches majors with a thump". Miami Herald. September 24, 1985. Retrieved March 16, 2010.
- "Restore Our Roads". City of Huntsville. Retrieved September 29, 2014.