City vets plans for new sidewalks

Thursday, October 30, 2008 | 5:13 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents got a chance to view diagrams for four new sidewalks on Wednesday.

The city plans — in conjunction with GetAbout Columbia — include sidewalks on the north side of Worley Street from West Boulevard to Clinkscales Road, both sides of Range Line Street from Business Loop 70 to Big Bear Boulevard, the north side of Broadway from Fairview Road to Stadium Boulevard and the east side of Providence Road from Blue Ridge Road to Smiley Lane.

The plans call for a sidewalk on the stretch of Range Line Street south of Interstate 70. North of I-70, engineers are considering narrowing traffic lanes to create space for bike lanes instead of sidewalks because steep inclines would make construction of a sidewalk more difficult and expensive, said Michael Ewersmann, an engineer with the consulting firm URS. The bike lanes could double as a path for foot traffic, he said.

Installing this set of sidewalks has been a three-year process and is part of the city's sidewalk master plan. Despite the long process, residents who live along the roads were not notified individually until the first part of October, causing frustration for some residents along Worley Street.

"They weren't clear about what they were doing," said Rhonda Carlson, whose father, Roger Hines, lives in Mississippi and owns two vacant lots at the corner of Worley Street and Clinkscales Road. "I'm sure they followed the legal requirements for informing people, but it wasn't a full public vetting."

Carlson said she was also concerned that a new sidewalk would increase the amount of trash that is discarded on her father's land.

Other Worley Street residents have concerns such as the effect on their landscaping, the cost and the amount of use the sidewalks will get. A number of these residents signed a petition and sent a letter to city staff and the Columbia City Council.

During the three years of planning, the city publicized the developments using city notes in the newspapers. Individual property owners were notified after the City Council agreed to move ahead with the sidewalk plans.

 "The city doesn't have the resources to notify everyone individually early in the planning process,"  said GetAbout Columbia Manager Ted Curtis, whose office is managing the Worley Street project. "There are tons of sidewalk projects in the city and miles of residences involved. City notes are pretty dry, but people should be informed."

By the time GetAbout Columbia and the engineers become involved, they're focused on making detailed designs, Curtis said.

 "At this point, it's not about whether or not the sidewalks will go in but about putting them in the best way possible," he said.

Wednesday's meeting allowed residents to give input to engineers that will be sent with the plans to the council for final approval, which is expected in January. Construction on all four projects is expected to begin either next year or in 2010.

The Worley Street project is budgeted for $277,000 and is funded by Community Development Block Grant funds. The money comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund projects benefiting low- to-moderate- income neighborhoods. GetAbout Columbia, a $22 million dollar federally funded non-motorized transportation initiative, will finance the other three projects. Curtis said cost estimates for those projects were not yet available.

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