Oporto-Madrid Boulevard

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Oporto-Madrid Boulevard is an approximately 3⅓-mile, major north-south thoroughfare on Birmingham's east side, traversing the East Lake, Roebuck-South East Lake, and Crestline communities. Between 1st Avenue North and about 77th Way South, it is actually the border between the East Lake and Roebuck-South East Lake communities.

Oporto-Madrid Boulevard North begins at 75th Street North, near — thanks to efforts to match the names of the streets of the various annexed street grids to the downtown street grid — both 47th Avenue North and 6th Avenue North. It continues southeast, passing under Interstate 59, then crossing Division Avenue and becoming Oporto-Madrid Boulevard South, to 77th Way where it turns south. The road then becomes an overpass over Red Gap, also crossing over Georgia Road and the Alabama Great Southern, Southern, and Central of Georgia railways that go through the gap. Shortly after resuming being a grade level road, it crosses under Interstate 20 and continues south to intersect U.S. Highway 78 (Crestwood Boulevard) and Montclair Road. Oporto-Madrid then officially ends at Montevallo Road, although the route actually continues south a couple more blocks as the residential Redwood Street.

History

Oporto-Madrid Boulevard was originally three separately-named streets. The northernmost portion ran near the site of the first pioneer homes in the area dating to the 1810s, a settlement that came to be known as Ruhamah. The route was incorporated into the Town of East Lake as 9th Street, and was then renumbered as 77th Street North and 77th Street South after East Lake was annexed into Birmingham in 1910.

Where the road changes from northwest-southeast to north-south, at 77th Way South, was originally the intersection of 77th and Madrid Avenue, which has been smoothed into a continuous curve. The remainder of 77th Street South continues from 77th Way toward what is now the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve before turning back on itself at Toulon Avenue.

Madrid Avenue originally extended from 77th to Georgia Road. A small portion of the original Madrid still runs for two blocks between 65th Street South and Georgia Road.

For over half of the 20th century, to cross the three railways in Red Gap, traffic had to use a wooden bridge on Jefferson Avenue, which intersected Georgia Road about 1,000 feet east of Madrid and proceeded south to Oxmoor-Irondale Road (now Montevallo Road). Part of that route is now Lawson Field Road which connects Oporto-Madrid to Lawson Field. Just south of the Red Gap, Jefferson Avenue was paralleled for a few blocks by Porter Avenue. Sometime between the mid-1940s and early 1950s, the two roads were renamed as Naples Avenue and Oporto Avenue to match the two roads east of Madrid on the north side of Red Gap.

During this same period, the road south to Montevallo Road was rerouted to feed in to Porter/Oporto instead of Jefferson/Naples. Likewise, Naples was slightly rerouted near Red Gap to make it easier for traffic to access Oporto. The surrounding roads were removed by the mid-1950s, leaving only Oporto Avenue south of Red Gap. Some maps list it as Oporto Road. The original Oporto Avenue north of Red Gap remains as a two-block residential street.

The southern end of Jefferson/Porter/Oporto Avenue where it met Montclair and Montevallo Roads also shifted over time. In the mid-20th century, it came down to Montclair, then jogged over eastward to connect to Montevallo at Shades Avenue. This small section between Montclair and Montevallo is now named Oporto Way.

A 1961 traffic study showed traffic through the route peaked at over 300 cars per hour. In 1962, work was completed widening Oporto to four lanes from Montevallo Road to the Atlanta Highway. As this project was wound up, a new overpass connecting Oporto and Madrid was designated as the top priority of all overpass projects in the city. The new overpass would span the rail lines and also Georgia Road. The original proposal included a ramp connecting Georgia with the overpass near where the two roads crossed, but this ramp was ultimately not built. Planning and construction of the overpass was supported with funds from highway construction bonds issued by the city in April 1963 and a federal Accelerated Public Works Program grant awarded to the city in August of the same year.

The contract for the overpass was awarded to Harbert Construction for $830,000. The ceremonial groundbreaking for the overpass took place on Friday, January 24, 1964, although actual work had been required to start the week before due to federal deadlines. Mayor Albert Boutwell, city council president M. E. Wiggins, city councilman Alan Drennen, executive secretary Bill Hamilton, and contractor John Harbert participated.

Within a few years, Oporto was rerouted with a new bridge built over the railroad tracks, connecting it directly to a rerouted Madrid. The remaining section of Oporto Avenue's original route south of Red Gap was renamed Lawson Field Road and the wooden bridge demolished. The rest of this southern Oporto Avenue's route was incorporated into the renamed Oporto-Madrid Boulevard (which also included the former 77th Street) during redevelopment projects that included Eastwood Mall, Century Plaza, and I-20.

Notable locations

For an alphabetical list of locations, see the Oporto-Madrid Boulevard category.
For clarity, not all intersections are included. Odd numbers are on the east side, even on the west.

East Lake community

East Lake/Roebuck-South East Lake

East Lake community

Crestline community

References