GetAbout Columbia to be discussed in public forum Tuesday

Sunday, January 27, 2008 | 8:47 p.m. CST; updated 9:11 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Proposals for six projects to expand Columbia sidewalks, trails and pedways will be up for public discussion Tuesday night. The GetAbout Columbia project, funded by a $22 million federal grant from the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program, wants input on the projects’ designs before they submit final plans for City Council approval this spring.

The proposed improvements could total more than $2 million, but those are rough estimates, as the projects are still in relatively early stages in the planning process, said Ted Curtis, GetAbout Columbia’s president.

The group, which changed its name from PedNet to GetAbout Columbia in November as part of a marketing strategy, held a similar meeting for the public in October for input on making the Stadium Boulevard and Forum Boulevard intersections more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. That project has since been approved by City Council. Construction should begin by summer, Curtis said.

Projects on the agenda are:

— Improvements to the Hinkson Creek Trail, including a bike lane on Bluffdale Road. The 10-foot wide concrete trail would connect Bluffdale Road to Rollins Avenue across Hinkson Creek. It then tees off and goes to Old 63 and Stadium Boulevard, where it connects with the sidewalk on Old 63.

— Creation of a pedway, a concrete trail that runs next to a road, on East New Haven Road. This pedway would range from 5- to 10-feet wide and would connect U.S.63 to Jefferson Farm and Gardens. Employees of an MU research park and U.S. Geological Survey facility along the road have requested trails there so they could bike to work, Curtis said.

“This is a case where we’re trying to get a little bit ahead of the curve since it’s been requested by several agencies,” Curtis said.

For other projects, it’s been more of an “if you build they will come,” outlook, Curtis said, saying they have been tying the projects in with marketing and promotion aimed at getting people out of their cars.

— Designs for connecting Shepard Boulevard to Old 63, either with a pedestrian stoplight or a roundabout.

— Creation of new sidewalks along Leeway Drive, Smiley Lane and West Ash Street. Curtis said there are gaps in the sidewalk on all of these streets, and these areas were top priorities in the city’s sidewalk study. Curtis said the sidewalks are important because they are near schools and they help not only pedestrians and cyclers, but people in wheelchairs as well.

“All of these gaps are really important because they will make the sidewalk usable in more than just the pieces you put in,” Curtis said.

As a whole, the designs aim to create an entire north-south pedestrian and cyclist corridor through Columbia.

But not everyone is excited about the plans. The Hinkson Creek Valley Neighborhood Association has voiced concerns about plans for the new trail.

Some residents don’t want increased traffic in their neighborhood, even if it is bicyclers or pedestrians, and others don’t want the natural area near the creek to be converted into a concrete trail.

“I can’t speak for everyone — obviously some people want a trail — but there’s not been one person in the neighborhood who has been real excited to get on the trail,” said Jeanine Pagan, president of the neighborhood association. “Stephens Lake (trail) is only a half mile away. They can just get on the sidewalk to go up there.”

Pagan said the association will meet before GetAbout Columbia’s meeting to discuss the trail. She said she thinks the plan will go ahead despite what the neighborhood says.

“The suggestions that everyone’s made, I don’t think they’ve done any good,” Pagan said. “When I look at the map, it appears to be the same map as last spring.”

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