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Birmingham’s historic downtown Rainbow Bridge closed to motorists


By Pat Byington


The Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. Bridge or what is also known as the “Rainbow Bridge” in downtown Birmingham closed to motorists beginning Friday, January 21.

The condition of the century-old bridge connecting First Avenue South to First Avenue North on what was once 21st Street has deteriorated over time and is one of the lowest rated bridges in the state, according to a city of Birmingham news release.

Motorists can access downtown from the south by using alternative routes via 20th and 24th Streets.

The city has regularly monitored the condition of the bridge and in 2019 launched an awareness campaign, adding more signage concerning the bridge’s three-ton weight limit and increased police patrols. The intent of the effort was to reduce damage to the structure. The continued lack of compliance with the weight limit has led to the city’s decision to close the bridge to vehicles.

According to Bhamwiki, the bridge was formally dedicated on May 191919.  At the time, the bridge was the first major connection between downtown and Southside completed within the city. The viaduct is dedicated to the decorated veterans of the 167th Infantry Regiment who fought as part of the “Rainbow Division” during World War I.  There are a pair of small memorials at the center of the bridge, topped with eagles, carrying plaques honoring those veterans.

Even though motorists and heavy trucks will be prohibited on the bridge beginning January 21,  pedestrians, cyclists and scooters are allowed to use the bridge.  The city has determined such use is safe.

Travelers may experience additional detours and slowdowns on Richard Arrington, Jr. Blvd (21st Street) near 10th Avenue over the next month because of the demolition of Quinlan Castle.

The city’s Department of Transportation has hired a firm which is midway through the design phase of a replacement for the bridge. The city is also considering funding options for the replacement. Once a design plan is complete, the public will have the opportunity to review the design.

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