Business owners, drivers react to South Memorial Parkway opening

HUNTSVILLE, Ala - Tuesday was a big day for south Huntsville. After two years of construction, South Memorial Parkway between Martin Road and Lily Flagg Road is now open for drivers.

Tuesday was the first time drivers moved through rush hour on the newly constructed overpasses. Traffic moved quickly on the Parkway. WHNT News 19 timed how long it took to drive from Governor's Drive to Hobbs Island Road. It only took 12 minutes. The crew began their trek a few minutes after 6:00 p.m.

A business that sits on South Memorial Parkway between Martin Road and Lily Flagg Road is happy that construction is finally complete.

Almost the entire time Blue Plate Cafe has been open, they have been dealing with orange barriers.

"We opened here in June of 2015 they started the construction December first of 2015," Jerry Sparks said. His son owns the restaurant.

The construction made things difficult for the new business. "In the first couple of months, it dropped us about 30%," he said.

The business sits in the middle of the Parkway's construction zone. The road work pumped the brakes on their lunch rush.

"If you're talking about people having an hour for lunch and they're spending 20 or 30 minutes of it sitting in line to get to the place in the traffic jam, it makes it difficult for them to come here sometimes," he said.

Folks from Blue Plate Cafe have signs up pointing people to their restaurant. They say now that the Parkway is open they are concerned people may not be able to find them.

"If you're going south on the Parkway you have to exit way up at Golf Road and if you're going north on the Parkway you have to exit down at Lily Flagg. So, there's not a direct exit for us," Sparks said.

Despite customers getting a little turned around he says opening the Parkway is going to pave the way for smoother roads ahead.

"We think in the long run it's going to definitely be better."

Even though the overpasses are open, some smaller road projects still need to be completed. Officials from ALDOT says they don't expect the projects to impede traffic and they are scheduled to be finished by late summer or early fall.

Drivers React to Construction Being Complete

More than 70,000 people drive on Memorial Parkway every day.

"Every day just about. I work not too far from here actually," Grant Smith from Huntsville said.

Tuesday there was quite a sight for them to behold.

"When I pulled out today on the Parkway and saw no traffic, it was a straight shot, nothing, no traffic, it was awesome," he said.

Many say traffic on the Parkway has been driving them crazy. They felt like they couldn't avoid it.

"You got to take all the back roads and side roads and its kind of hard to know which way and everybody is taking the same roads so it's been congested," Brett Crow from Huntsville said.

Since the overpasses are open construction is no longer being diverted from Martin Road to Lily Flagg Road. That change actually caused a little confusion for people trying to access shopping centers along the construction route.

"I didn't realize that I had to get off at the Martin Road/ Byrd Spring exit so I went down to the Lily Flagg one and then I had to turn around," said Babs Bruce from Huntsville.

But drivers say that's just a little bump in the road when it comes to the big picture. The big picture includes four lanes moving in both directions along the Parkway.

Not only is this helping current drivers move a little faster it's also paving the way for the city to be able to handle more drivers in the future as the city continues to grow.