Interstate 70 interchange proposed to solve Stadium's traffic woes

Thursday, November 20, 2008 | 3:20 p.m. CST; updated 7:16 p.m. CST, Thursday, November 20, 2008
The city of Columbia is preparing a proposal to create a new interchange on Interstate 70 to relieve the congestion at the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Interstate 70.

COLUMBIA — Just last week, the Columbia Police Department dispatched a traffic officer to the city's west side, where motorists turning onto Stadium Boulevard from Bernadette Street were blocking the intersection, aggravating an already congested evening rush.

It wasn't the first time an officer had been sent to deal with traffic in the area. And Sgt. Shelley Jones, who oversees the traffic division for the Police Department, expects those visits to continue as the holiday season attracts shoppers to the Columbia Mall and other nearby retailers.

"There are a high volume of cars going through that intersection," Jones said. "It just gets all tied up there."

Rush-hour gridlock and blocked intersections are symptoms of increasing traffic congestion around Stadium Boulevard and Interstate 70. To alleviate the recurring traffic headaches, the city has hired a consultant to explore construction and draft a proposal of a new interchange on I-70 about a mile west of Stadium.

Jones sees two major causes for Stadium's increased traffic volume: business development on the street and use of the thoroughfare to access the Walmart Supercenter on West Broadway as well as other nearby businesses. 

"There's more businesses on Stadium," Jones said. "There's more people in Columbia."

The city has hired Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier Traffic and Transportation Engineers for $500,000 to conduct traffic counts, explore designs for a new interchange on I-70 and project future traffic flows that would result. The consultants would then draft a proposal to the city that would be passed to the state and Federal Highway Administration for final approval and funding. The $500,000 contract was included in the city's 2008 capital improvement budget.

Under the plan, Scott Boulevard would be extended north from its terminus at West Broadway and connect with the future interchange at I-70. The roadway would continue north of the highway to connect to the existing road network.

David Nichols, the city's chief engineer, said the city will eventually look at the possibility of building a new road from the interchange that would extend north to the Village at Monterey Hills, a neighborhood under construction on Route E just inside the city limits.

This isn't the first time a new I-70 interchange has been proposed just west of Stadium. In summer 2003, The Kroenke Group, a Columbia-based real estate development corporation, proposed extending Scott Boulevard to connect with a new I-70 interchange. The interchange was opposed by some who felt it would directly benefit a Walmart Supercenter and shopping mall that The Kroenke Group eventually built on West Broadway.

Later in 2003, the state Department of Transportation finished a study of the Stadium Boulevard corridor that concluded a new interchange was needed west of the city "because Stadium was maxed out and couldn't handle more traffic," Nichols said.

The Kroenke Group is not involved in the new interchange proposal, Nichols said.

Mike Dusenberg, district planning manager for the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, said "a corridor study was conducted in 2003 that looked at Stadium Boulevard and found there was a benefit to the system to provide another access off I-70 west of Stadium to help alleviate traffic growth due to potential development in this area of Columbia."

With the new interchange project in its infancy, questions of cost and design specifics await. Nichols said the estimated cost and source of funding has yet to be determined. He pointed to the new interchange on U.S. 63 at Gans Road as an indicator of cost. The new interchange — which opens after a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Thursday — cost about $8 million.

Although an extension to Scott Boulevard would be a city project, it plans to seek state and federal financing for the interchange.

Currently, there is no funding for the interchange, Dusenberg said. Once the proposals are "complete and approved," Dusenberg said, "federal funding could be obtained, if available, to pay for any construction."

Nichols said the interchange could be a variety of designs, including the "folded diamond." Although he said a full clover-leaf design is a possibility, he doesn't believe there will be enough room for such a design.

The city is focusing on drafting a proposal and gaining approval from state and federal highway officials.

The city will also need to conduct an assessment of the proposed project, Dusenberg said, that looks at the impacts to the environment as well as to people and businesses in the area.

Since the last week of October, the consulting firm has been in the process of conducting traffic counts on numerous roads in the vicinity of Stadium and I-70.

After analyzing traffic trends — including those on I-70 — the consultants will  move to the planning and designing portions of the proposal.

A timeline for the proposed interchange construction has not yet been determined. According to a consultant's report, the city is seeking to gain approval from the Federal Highway Administration within the next two years.

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Ayn Rand November 20, 2008 | 5:18 p.m.

Interesting to see this proposal revived. I suspect that it would encourage even more sprawl on the west side, just as Gans will spur the southeast side and the Stadium extension will in the east. So much for increasing density.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 20, 2008 | 11:26 p.m.

Even a cursory look at the proposed interchange site should rule out the possibility of a full cloverleaf as an interchange. If traffic coming south on the Scott extension from the interchange decides to turn east on Worley rather than going farther south to Broadway and then turning east, this will become a traffic nightmare! That could be prevented by deliberately not connecting the extension with Worley.

(Report Comment)
Jozef Goj November 20, 2008 | 11:42 p.m.

The whole concept of Liquid Flow Traffic is to totally eliminate traffic lights.
Traffic lights were installed outside the Houses of Parliament, London, England 140 years ago as the politicians of the day complained about leaving the House.
They were taken directly from the railways lights of the day. Oil lamps, unfortunately they blew up within a year but were replaced by electric and haven’t changed much since then. Set up traffic lights and someone has to stop to let someone go, so you get, stop go, stop go, traffic flow. That's what you have today.
The first roundabout was invented in the USA 104 years ago. It only works in light traffic flow only and was never designed to be multi lane and placed into multi lane roads. Rotaries are just big multi lane roundabouts.
Diamond Interchanges came in the Twenties and Thirties with Freeways. This was the time when traffic engineers foisted on drivers the most illogical piece of engineering ever, the exit from one side of the freeway with a traffic light at the end, the Diamond Interchange.
The Cloverleaf 82 years old were also slow intersections as entering and exiting vehicles had to share the same lane and as a consequence not many were built.
The latest freeway interchange crossings like the Light Horse, NSW, Australia and the Red Tan, Texas, US require two merges to turn left or right and under peak flows they also slow traffic. They use short merge lanes not longer slip lanes when rejoining the freeway.
There are many derivatives and combinations but they all fail in peak time when vehicle flows are the heaviest. When you add the restrictive speed limits that keep everyone crawling along then you get Chaos and all its associated problems.
In peak time the road, like a chain that is as strong as its weakest link, works to the speed of the slowest intersection. The flow rate of Traffic lights.
I have spent many hundreds of hours and cannot find any intersection currently being espoused as the solution that works effectively.
The High Speed Interchange is the solution we should have had in the Twenties and Thirties but they cost more than a simple diamond intersection and as a result we are now paying for it.
The Turnabout is specifically for traffic exiting into the suburbs and is designed to fit most crossroads and T intersections.
Once you get a free vehicle flow on the main road then building extra lanes is not always necessary and with archaic intersection does nothing to relieve the jams gridlock and congestion.
I'm 'Jozef Goj' the inventor and designer of 'Liquid Flow Traffic' intersections. Search me and make up your own mind.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 21, 2008 | 3:50 a.m.

Good thing people see foreseen problems and now take those and forward those things to the proper entities.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith November 21, 2008 | 11:29 a.m.

Note: Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the extension of Scott Boulevard north from Broadway to I-70 would at least parallel present Route ZZ, North Strawn Road. Route ZZ now routinely is over flooded by Harmony Creek after hard rainstorms; the road has signs announcing that problem. Both the proposed extension and proposed interchange must contend with Harmony Creek AND Perche Creek. That's certainly possible, but it adds to complexity and therefore cost.

(Report Comment)

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