COLUMBIA — Local and state officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday to mark the beginning of a $13.9 million project that will widen Range Line Street to four lanes in both directions between Big Bear Boulevard and Prathersville Road.
“We’re going to end up with a terrific product,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said. Multiple designs and several years later, the joint venture between the city, Boone County and the Missouri Department of Transportation is scheduled to be done by fall 2009.
“It will be inconvenient for a while when the construction is going on, but it’s going to be well worth it,” Hindman said.
The project is designed to serve rapidly developing commercial and residential areas along Range Line in north Columbia and to relieve heavy congestion on the four-lane street, which is also known as Missouri 763.
This portion of the road serves as many as 34,000 vehicles a day.
Roger Schwartze, the Transportation Department’s District 5 engineer, credited the expansion project to multiple groups working together and making sacrifices, particularly local businesses and landowners who voluntarily gave up land or donated right of way to accommodate the plans.
“Thirty-five percent (of the expanded road) was property owner-donated or given up in some way to help this construction get completed,” Schwartze said.
Schwartze said multi-agency and -landowner cooperation will also be necessary for future road projects in Columbia.
Previous cost estimates for the Range Line project totaled at almost $30 million, but a compromise between the state, county and city led to lower costs.
The road expansion will include underground utilities, which both Hindman and Schwartze said would beautify the area by getting rid of overhead power lines on both sides of Range Line. There will also be 6-foot sidewalks and 7-foot shoulders on both sides of the street. A roundabout at Range Line’s intersection with Route VV is designed to get southbound drivers to slow down and recognize that they’re no longer on a highway.
The plan also includes a median to divide north- and southbound lanes, but business owners who expressed reservations about the median persuaded engineers to add breaks in it so drivers can easily access businesses on either the east or west side of the street.
Construction will begin on the northbound lanes first. Two lanes of traffic will remain open throughout construction. Electronic signs warning drivers to expect delays have already been posted.