COLUMBIA — Dozens of projects have been pitched by GetAbout Columbia officials, yet just two of the designs have been given a "signature" label — an Interstate 70 overpass bridge and a project to make the pedestrian overpass on Providence Road part of the trail network.
The "signature" label means the project features an aesthetically-pleasing design with high visibility, among other characteristics, said Ted Curtis, the program's manager.
And only one of those "signature" projects has received priority funding from the Columbia City Council.
The council has elected to fund the Providence Road overpass and connect it to the Flat Branch Park Pedway. While engineers will continue to study the I-70 overpass, any construction on that project will have to wait at least a few years until additional highway funding might become available, Curtis said.
"This is a project that has merit," Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku said of the I-70 overpass that would connect Cosmo Park with the south side of I-70. "But it just didn't rise to the top with limited funds."
At a special meeting to discuss GetAbout priorities in July, the council had about $13 million for projects. The I-70 overpass would cost at least $1 million, Curtis said, and integrating the Providence Road overpass at Douglass High School into the trail system has an estimated cost of $1.04 million.
The I-70 overpass project is located in Janku's ward. But Janku said he placed more priority on ensuring trail access from residential areas off Range Line Street to downtown.
Janku said he wanted to make sure the Providence Road connection from Smiley Lane to Blue Ridge Road received priority funding, along with improvements to the sidewalk from I-70 to Wilkes Boulevard and the sidewalk from Business Loop 70 to Big Bear Boulevard.
Bike routes connecting those neighborhoods to downtown could lead to a larger shift in people hopping on their bikes instead of pressing the gas, Janku said.
The proposed I-70 overpass bridge would have provided connections for residential areas from north Columbia to downtown and other destinations, such as the Activity and Recreation Center and Shelter Insurance.
Questions about the I-70 bridge, he said, such as where it would connect on the south side of I-70, also contributed to the overpass being removed from the priority list.
Julia Williams, who lives in the Fourth Ward, said if the overpass bridge were installed, she'd ride her bike 55 miles a week to work and yoga class on the trail instead of driving her 1986 Jeep Cherokee.
"I was just absolutely amazed that it wasn't number one on the list," Williams said.
She said she'd like to see more bike routes along and near Columbia's major thoroughfares.
Construction on the trail project that includes the Providence Road overpass is scheduled to begin in January 2010.
The ongoing study of the I-70 overpass bridge will continue, Curtis said, and hopefully be finished by the end of the year. Engineering plans for the project have not yet been returned to GetAbout Columbia officials.
"Unfortunately there were way more projects than we have funding for," Curtis said. "It would have been a real signature project for the city."