COLUMBIA — About 30 observers gathered on Thursday morning to witness the opening of the new U.S. 63 overpass at Gans Road just south of Columbia.
The overpass officially opened to traffic around noon Thursday.
Emery Sapp & Sons finished the project one year and one day after beginning it. The approximately 190-foot bridge, which will connect Gans Road, U.S. 63, Ponderosa Street and Lenoir Street, was finished a little over a week ahead of schedule.
The Missouri Department of Transportation paid for $5.4 million of the $10.7 million project. The city will split the remaining costs with the Gans Road and U.S. 63 Transportation Development District.
To the east of U.S. 63, MU's 114-acre Discovery Ridge Research Park is taking shape. The Analytical Bio-Chemistry Laboratories opened in the research park in September with about 200 employees.
On the west side of U.S. 63, the Forum Development Group is designing a new multi-use development, "Discovery." The proposed community would contain 400,000 square feet of office space, 700,000 square feet of retail space and over 500 residential units, according to the Forum Development Group's Web site.
The Forum Development Group is awaiting approval from the city on the development.
Columbia's first Catholic high school will also be going into the quickly developing area of Gans Road and U.S. 63. On Monday, the City Council approved the final plan for the $16 million development of the school, which will enroll up to 400 students.
Charles Sullivan, Department of Transportation resident engineer, said the project is ultimately finished and open to traffic, but there are still a few details the contractors need to finish.
"We're putting up street lights, and the signals are up," he said. "We still have minor details to do."
Mayor Darwin Hindman sees the overpass providing numerous benefits for the city.
"I think it's an extraordinary project for Columbia," Hindman said. "The inter-connectivity to a highway and the rest of town is very important."
Hindman cited the importance of the access the overpass provides to pedestrians and bicyclists. He said, "it's a very progressive and forward-looking design."
The new overpass will also be "very important to Columbia's economic development," Hindman said. "Highways have a downside in that they also cause a barrier to connectivity in the city because they're a barrier to get across. This overpass breaks that barrier in that area."