Council votes to expand Scott Boulevard

Monday, May 19, 2008 | 10:07 p.m. CDT; updated 6:54 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — Almost two miles of Scott Boulevard between Rollins Road and Brookview Terrace will be expanded after the City Council voted Monday night to transform the two-lane road into four lanes and to add more street lights, bicycle lanes and a grass median.

Community members got their last chance to voice opinions about the proposal during the public hearing before the council voted on the road improvements.

The plan will cost about $11.2 million, which will come from the city, Boone County and the Missouri Department of Transportation. Federal funds have also been earmarked for the project. Bids on construction will start in December, and crews are expected to break ground at the beginning of next year.

A project of this magnitude will require more than 300 easements from landowners along Scott Boulevard, a task that is usually the responsibility of the city. The council authorized an amendment to the agreement that would allow Burns and McDonnell, the project’s engineering company, to help Columbia’s limited staff with these acquisitions.

“This number of easements would totally overwhelm our right-of-way staff,” City Manager Bill Watkins said.

Nearly everyone who spoke during the hearing wanted an answer from the council about how much of their land would be acquired for the project.

“My property backs up to Scott Boulevard,” said Jim Rich, who lives on Lake Town Drive. “I just want to know what the plans are for land acquisition there.”

The construction was “no problem,” Rich said after learning that only temporary easements for construction would be necessary in his backyard. Similar requests were made to find out where and how much land would be needed from citizens’ property. The council suggested individuals speak to Public Works about the specifics and engineering.

“This is a complicated improvement,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said. “It’s difficult to hone in on individual questions. There are things that need to be discussed with staff who know more about the engineering and design.”

Both permanent easements and temporary acquisitions for construction will be required along both sides of the road, except for the section in the northern mile of the two-mile stretch. In that area, duplexes that have driveways alongside the road will not be required to relinquish land. Instead, the design compensates for the lack of land from these driveways and a creek on the west side of Scott Boulevard with more land acquisition on the opposite side. The “offset alignment” is one of the complications to the road improvement.

The plan to avoid these driveways was praised by a landlord who said he once witnessed a truck run off Scott Boulevard into one of his tenant’s front lawn. The landlord said if the easements had moved the road closer to the property, the truck would have ended up in the house.

Chris Kespohl, an attorney acting as a representative for residents in the West Lawn neighborhood near Scott Boulevard, said one question remains about this offset alignment: the difference in cost between offsetting and not offsetting. He suggested, as the council looks into processes with development, that they include these cost aspects for the public in advance to see how the changes would affect budgets.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser both have constituents in the Scott Boulevard area.

“The single most frequently asked question I get is ‘What’s the situation with Scott Boulevard?’” Wade said. “This is a project that is so complicated and such a huge change from what is there that the impact will be large. I think the adjustments staff have made give us something we can all live with.”

Nauser said she was happy to see them move forward on this project.

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