COLUMBIA — On Monday night the City Council approved the extension of Maguire Boulevard to Stadium Boulevard with a 4-3 vote.
The Maguire extension represents the evolution of an initial, long-standing plan to extend Lemone Industrial Boulevard north to connect with Stadium Boulevard. Lemone Industrial is home to the Concorde Office and Industrial Plaza developed by the late Bob Lemone. As it stands, the only way traffic can leave the plaza is to head south to New Haven Road.
Proponents cited traffic and safety concerns with current road conditions.
“This park is maxed out beyond its infrastructure,” said Phebe Lamar, an attorney representing businesses and employees at the plaza. “It can’t handle it anymore.”
Also raised was the issue of economic development. Jay Burchfield, who is responsible for 10 properties in the industrial complex, said 100,000 square feet of rentable space is vacant and 200,000 more square feet is under-utilized.
“We are talking about having other employers come out there,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said in his later comments. “We need to have this entrance on the north in order to be able to fill up these spaces.”
There was concern in the public hearing that the bridges required by the extension would cause damage to the stream that lies north of Lemone.
However, proponents of the extension said the effect on the environment is not a factor because there is already a negative effect from the cars of the roughly 2,000 employees who often sit idle in traffic for as long as 45 minutes, burning fuel.
“Those 2,000 people put out a lot of pollution,” said Paul Love, an employee at Carfax on Maguire Boulevard. “They put out a lot of energy and I don’t think that’s being counted.”
Council representatives Chris Janku of the Second Ward, Jerry Wade of the Fourth Ward and Laura Nauser of the Fifth Ward joined the mayor in approving the project. Wade said it is important that the council follow through.
“Most importantly, we will have done something that we have talked about and talked about but have not done,” he said.
Nauser offered a business perspective. "Time is money," she said. "Employers do not want tractor-trailers and their employees having to sit for 30 or 40 minutes to try and get out of this area."
First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz, Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala and Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe voted against going forward.
Skala said the city is misleading residents by suggesting that financing for the project represents a public-private partnership. The extension will cost about $9 million: About $5 million of that will come from the city, and the rest will come from a sales tax levied by the Stadium 63 LLC Transportation Development District and a donation that developer Bob Lemone made prior to his death.
The northward extension of Lemone Industrial Boulevard had been on the city’s wish list for years, but there was no money to do the work until November 1995, when voters approved a quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax for a list of priority road projects that included the extension.
As Public Works officials explored designs for the road, however, they concluded the better plan would be to extend Maguire Boulevard, which is immediately east of Lemone Industrial, and to tie that extension into Warren Drive a bit further east. That, the Public Works staff said, would help further alleviate traffic congestion at New Haven and Lemone Industrial by creating a second outlet to the south, farther away from U.S. 63. The change would add nothing to the cost, the staff said. The council approved that change in early December.