Hollywood Boulevard pedestrian bridge

From Bhamwiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Hollywood Boulevard pedestrian bridge was a proposed pedestrian and bicycle connection between the suburbs of Homewood and Mountain Brook across U.S. Highway 280 near the existing Hollywood Boulevard vehicular overpass, which was built in the 1960s with two lanes of traffic, 24" tall guardrails, and no pedestrian path.

The Homewood City Council first approved a resolution to pursue development of such a bridge on August 13, following discussions with Mountain Brook and Birmingham coordinated by State Representative Paul DeMarco (R-District 46) had already begun. Homewood City Council member Jackie Langlow was also a leader, and the project was overwhelmingly supported by the 900-member Birmingham Track Club, headed by Jennifer Andress as a major improvement to safety for runners.

DeMarco lost his seat in the 2014 Republican primary, and Andress was elected to the Homewood City Council in 2016, with the bridge project as a key part of her campaign. She took up the mantle of leading the project as planning continued. In November 2016 both Homewood and Mountain Brook approved $6,000 each as a 20% match for a feasibility study through the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham's APPLE (Advanced Planning, Programming and Logical Engineering) program.

That study, which compared various design options and funding schemes over the longer section of the boulevard from Malaga Avenue to Mountain Brook Village. RPCGB planners Mike Kaczorowski and Jennifer Brown presented preliminary findings along with various design options to a group meeting of officials from Homewood, Mountain Brook and Birmingham in January 2018. Also attending were DeMarco and his successor as District 46 Representative David Faulkner. The planners looked at two alternatives for providing a protected pedestrian path on an expanded overpass and two alternatives for building a separate pedestrian bridge. They also evaluated the option of merely restriping the overpass to provide a slightly wider shoulder and using the planned Zoo Connector Trail as the preferred path for pedestrian connection between Homewood and Mountain Brook. After the meeting it was noted that stakeholders preferred a separate 10-foot wide pedestrian bridge north of the overpass, which it was hoped would be feasible without federal funding.

Sain Associates completed their feasibility study in June 2018. They estimated that the preferred option for a separate bridge would cost approximately $1,165,000. It would be about 130 feet long and would extend from Union Hill Road at the corner of Union Hill Cemetery to the parking lot of The Hollywood shopping center. Placement of the pre-fabricated bridge structure was expected to require the highway to be closed for two days.

The Highway 280 Neighborhood Improvement District Cooperative was established in August 2018 to coordinate project funding on behalf of the cities involved. Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons served as president of that group, with Andress as vice-president and Mountain Brook City Councilor Alice Womack as treasurer. Other members included Virginia Smith and Peter Wright, presidents of the Mountain Brook and Homewood City Councils respectively, and Darrell O'Quinn and Valerie Abbott of the Birmingham City Council.

Homewood and Mountain Brook each pledged $200,000. Alabama State Senator Slade Blackwell (R-District 15) allocated $150,000 from the Jefferson County Community Service Fund toward the project. Other members of the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation also awarded grants from the same fund, totaling $262,500. The Birmingham Track Club and Trak Shak held a fundraising event and made a sizeable contribution. Other donations were received from individuals and businesses, and from the Hollywood Garden Club. The amount pledged surpassed $1.1 million in October 2018. Andress expected that construction could begin in spring 2019.

Before any contracts were signed, however, the Jefferson County Roads and Transportation Department and the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) determined that they preferred to replace the entire overpass to better accommodate both vehicular and pedestrian use, and would cost around $3 million. The idea of a separate pedestrian bridge was set aside and progress on the project was stalled in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January 2021 the Highway 280 Neighborhood Improvement District Cooperative met with the County Transportation Department to request that the project move forward. Andress and Ammons announced in September 2021 that preliminary design of the improved overpass had been completed, and was pending approvals from ALDOT. The new bridge would add a left turn lane for cars entering U.S. Highway 280 eastbound and a traffic signal at the top of the exit ramp from 280 westbound. The protected pedestrian path would occupy the northern edge of the bridge. The Cooperative then contracted with AECOM of Los Angeles, California to produce engineering drawings for bidding, which was expected to take place in August 2022.

Meanwhile, ALDOT began planning to widen U.S. Highway 280 to four lanes in each direction between Hollywood Boulevard and I-459. Progress on the overpass replacement was delayed again to accommodate the highway project.