Seven of nine proposed new street connections along the Range Line Street corridor will be added to the city’s Major Roadway Plan after the Columbia City Council approved them at its second regular meeting in November.
The connecting roads are classified as “local non-residential,” a type of street that usually spans a short distance and serves as an access to a small group of properties, city Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy said. Non-residential roads are also wider than residential roads.
Two connections on either side of Range Line just north of Blue Ridge Road, designated LNR 5 and LNR 6 on a city planning map, were not approved.
“They were not disapproved but were left off the ordinance pending further analysis,” Teddy said, adding that it's a “question of design” and whether the streets should be classified as non-residential. Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku voiced concern at the council meeting that people might use those connectors to avoid the intersection of Blue Ridge and Range Line.
Although the other seven connections will be added to the Major Roadway Plan, they won't be built immediately. The plan is intended to look at street needs 20 to 25 years into the future.
“None of the connections are city project proposals,” Teddy said. “This is a city planning document. We are proposing to add them as lines on a plan, which we can use as a tool to evaluate site plans for subdivisions.”
Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala agreed the streets won’t be built any time soon.
“Cement is not going to be poured for a substantial amount of time,” Skala said. “Tim Teddy was correct that these connections are being used as a city planning document only and have neither been formally proposed or funded, at this point. That means there is a long way to go before these connections become reality.”
Skala suggested that many of these connections might eventually be included in the city’s capital improvement program, but in that case, their construction would require the public’s approval in the form of a bond issue. The last time voters did that was in 2005, when they approved a sales tax to generate $80 million for street projects.
Skala said the city generally requests infrastructure bond issues about every 10 years.
The city already is investing $11 million into the reconstruction and widening of Range Line Street. Construction of the proposed connecting roads would facilitate future development in the corridor, Teddy said.
The planned streets are intended to provide connectivity between subdivisions along Range Line, which is expected to carry a large volume of relatively high-speed traffic once it is expanded to four lanes. The connecting streets would give the public alternative routes so it doesn't have to use Range Line for shorter trips.
The new streets would also help traffic circulation, Teddy said.
“They are not exclusively for the area neighborhoods. Part of it is for area neighborhoods, but we are also anticipating that a lot of development will be commercial,” Teddy said. “These connections would be helpful to customers, employees, delivery traffic, service vehicles and that kind of thing.”
Skala said growth in the Range Line corridor is creating a need for the future street connections.
“That growth has been pretty explosive,” he said. “These proposed connections are designed, frankly, to relieve some of the traffic that is already there.”
Residents of surrounding neighborhoods shouldn’t have to worry about increased traffic around their homes because of the roads— they would distribute traffic more evenly, Teddy said.
“Local trips can remain more local, and cross-town trips can remain on Range Line," he said. "In general, it will be beneficial to the neighborhoods.”