HOMEWOOD, Ala. (AP) — A pedestrian bridge connecting Homewood, Birmingham and Mountain Brook could be open by mid-2019.
Homewood City Councilor Jennifer Andress, who is spearheading the project, says adding a pedestrian bridge, separate from the two-lane vehicular bridge over U.S. 280, will improve safety for walkers, runners and cyclists who regularly traverse the area.
“We really know that runners, walkers and cyclists take their life in their hands whenever they go over that (existing Hollywood Boulevard) bridge,” she said, adding the bridge has no shoulders and low railings.
Al.com reports Andress says the bridge is projected to cost $1.16 million. She said the structure will be similar to one at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
The bridge will be prefabricated and trucked onto the site in pieces, Andress said. It will be made from unpainted, weathering steel that won’t require maintenance. The structure will have capstones and be 8 feet wide and 130 feet long, she said.
The cities of Homewood and Mountain Brook have both committed $200,000 to the bridge. The Hollywood Garden Club has committed $10,000, and the Birmingham Track Club and Trak Shak have committed $15,000, she said.
Andress said she’s also working to secure additional funding from state legislators representing the area.
Andress said she expects to have the funding in place by Oct. 1, the start of Homewood’s new fiscal year.
“We really have a fabulous project, and we are so close to getting this done,” she said, adding that she’s been working on trying to bring the project to fruition for several years.
After the funding is in place, the project’s design phase can begin.
Andress said the pedestrian bridge isn’t an Alabama Department of Transportation project, but the state agency had to approve the bridge being installed in its right-of-way. The installation will require U.S. 280 to be shut down overnight for two nights, she said. A crane will drop the bridge in place on the first night, and the bridge will be secured with concrete the second night.
Andress said she expected the bridge to be in place by the second quarter of 2019.
Earlier this week, the Homewood City Council approved the creation of a cooperative district with the cities of Mountain Brook and Birmingham and Jefferson County for the Hollywood Pedestrian Bridge project.
Mountain Brook Council President Virginia Smith confirmed the city’s support.
“A bridge dedicated to pedestrians and separated from the vehicular bridge will provide a safe means to travel and encourage folks to walk, run, stroll and even bike from community to community whether shopping or recreational,” she said.
Birmingham isn’t expected to contribute financially to the project, but that city also must approve the bridge being constructed it its right-of-way.
Local runners are applauding the project.
“Hollywood Boulevard is really a major thoroughfare both for runners in the area and certainly for drivers trying to get from one area of town to the other,” said Julie Pearce, who serves as secretary of the Birmingham Track Club.
She said long-distance runners will often travel over the Hollywood Boulevard bridge because it connects Homewood and Mountain Brook.
“It is scary sometimes,” Pearce said, of running over the bridge. “We just have to be really cautious.”
She said the addition of a pedestrian bridge would be beneficial because it will link communities, make running safer and encourage others to be active.