COLUMBIA — Although Benton-Stephens residents voiced some reservations about GetAbout Columbia's "Bike Boulevard" plan, a Thursday meeting at Benton Elementary School ended on a positive note. Nearly all 17 people took the opportunity to voice their comments, both in favor of and against the proposal.
The plan calls for a vehicle-free median in the middle of College Avenue between Ash and Windsor streets, which would prohibit left turns onto those streets. The goal of the plan is to divert through traffic from Windsor Street, making College Avenue more accessible to bikers and pedestrians.
“It is important to us since we are a heavily pedestrian neighborhood,” said Kip Kendrick, president of the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association.
A chief concern raised was the potential problem caused by diverting traffic to the neighboring streets of Hinkson Avenue via Paris Road and Walnut Street. Residents expressed concern about a possible increase in the number of vehicles and whether access to their neighborhood would be affected.
"How are the parents going to get to the school (Benton) to pick up their kids?" said Kristen Heitkamp, who lives in the neighborhood.
Kathy Doisy, another resident, was for the plan, saying it "will be safer in the long run."
“I try to cross College (on foot) all the time. Even with the light on Walnut, it is very intimidating,” Doisy said.
The plan presented was one of several options that GetAbout Columbia could implement to increase accessibility and pedestrian safety. Other options include making Windsor Street one-way. The meeting’s main goals were gathering information and "gauging the response of the neighborhood,” said Ted Curtis, manager of the GetAbout Columbia project.
Any changes to College Avenue must first be approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
After almost two hours of mild debate between community members and GetAbout officials, the meeting drew to a close.
Kendrick was encouraged by the outcome.
"There were a lot of people in favor of the Bike Boulevard idea," Kendrick said. "I felt that the tone of the meeting was positive and productive."
One million dollars is set aside to complete road projects that GetAbout Columbia is involved with, Curtis said, specifically on-street striping for lanes set aside for pedestrians and bikes. The next step for the project would be approval by the City Council. If approved, construction could start as early as this summer, Curtis said.