Officials celebrate road extension

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 | 9:56 p.m. CDT; updated 12:16 a.m. CST, Wednesday, November 26, 2008

COLUMBIA — The $3.4 million extension of Chapel Hill Road from Scott Boulevard to Gillespie Bridge Road has been completed for four weeks, but those involved in the project didn’t celebrate its opening until Wednesday morning, when they held a ribbon cutting near the Daniel Boone Little League fields.

The Chapel Hill project, which stretches for 4,700 feet and was built by Emery Sapp and Sons, represents the combined efforts of city and county government. The majority of the cost was covered by the city’s capital improvements sales tax, but Boone County contributed $900,000 to the cause through its revenue sharing program, said David Mink, director of the county’s Public Works Department. Development fees also contributed.

Although the final cost was about $500,000 more than the original bid, Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku said change orders on the project explain the differences.

The extension creates a new avenue for increasing traffic in the rapidly developing area of west Columbia. Mink called it a definite improvement.

“The traffic signal provides a safer connection,” he said. “Gillespie Bridge Road tended to flood, so it’s an all-weather connection.” The project includes a new drainage system.

Chapel Hill Road now splits the Daniel Boone fields, but children can walk back and forth between the fields using a pedestrian underpass beneath a bridge. The road also features a five-foot sidewalk on its south side and an eight-foot pedway on the north, Janku said.

Volunteers helped with landscaping by planting more than 2,000 feet of flower beds along the extension. The Stonecrest Neighborhood Association, the Daniel Boone Little League and Bob Walters planted six beds in the road’s median, said Leigh Britt, director of the city’s Office of Volunteer Services. She said all three signed agreements to care for the area for at least four years.

“It’s just a great example of how citizens can contribute to our infrastructures,” she said.

Janku said he was pleased with the result and said the city is working to make similar improvements elsewhere.

“We’re addressing infrastructure needs throughout the community,” he said. “There are a number of road projects that are moving forward.”

Progress in the western Columbia area isn’t over. Construction will begin next spring to widen Scott Boulevard to four lanes and to add a center turn lane and a median, said Mary Ellen Lea, interim director of the city Public Works Department. She expects that work to continue at least two years.

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