Several Jefferson County legislators gathered Monday morning at Hollywood Boulevard to move forward with a pedestrian bridge project that would allow people to safely walk or run across U.S. Highway 280.
Homewood City Councilor Jennifer Andress held two checks in her hand at the event: $15,000 from state Rep. David Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, and $10,000 from Rep. Jim Carns, R-Vestavia Hills. But she can’t spend them just yet.
“We still have a few more steps to go, but this has been, for me personally, six years in the making,” she said. “It’s why I ran for City Council, and I’m so thrilled to be here.”
Andress got involved with the project while she was president of the Birmingham Track Club. She said 1,200 members of the club use the current Hollywood Boulevard bridge each week, but the bridge can be dangerous for pedestrians.
“This is a very narrow bridge,” she said. “It’s 24 feet wide, and you can see how low the guardrail is. … If somebody cut it too close, it’s very dangerous.”
Paul Demarco was part of an effort to expand and replace the bridge in 2012, when he was a state representative. The state rejected the plan and determined that the bridge did not need to be replaced.
“But we looked at other efforts, and we kept driving this and seeing if there was some way, because we knew it was something our residents wanted to happen and something that was a real safety issue for our citizens,” Faulkner said. “So now what we’re going to do is we’ve moved forward with a pedestrian bridge.”
The pedestrian bridge will be separate from the current Hollywood Boulevard bridge and could be ready for use by spring. The project has had a total of $1 million committed from the cities of Mountain Brook and Homewood, the county, the state and private and corporate donations.
The next step in the process will occur Nov. 20, when the legislators will formalize the cooperative district between the cities and the county. Then the cities will each need to pass resolutions for the project. Finally, those behind the project can start spending money and hiring contractors.
“Once it’s designed, it’s not going to be a long process,” Andress said. “It’s a prefabricated bridge. They’re going to drop it in place one night, and the next night they’ll be pouring the concrete. I really anticipate late spring. I don’t see it going past that.”
In addition to solving a problem with safety, this bridge has also brought together multiple jurisdictions. The cemetery on one end of the bridge is in Homewood, and the Starbucks on the other side is in Mountain Brook.
“What’s come out of this project is the relationships that we have built,” Andress said. “The city of Homewood, the city of Mountain Brook, the city of Birmingham, the county and our state representatives and legislators –what can we do next?”
“It’s great that we saw a cooperation among all governments to make this happen, to resolve what is a real safety issue, a community issue for our citizens,” Faulkner said.