COLUMBIA — Construction began Tuesday on the extension of Providence Road north between Vandiver Drive and Blue Ridge Road. The project, which will include a bridge, will set taxpayers back $4.2 million.
The project is one of several being financed in part by a capital improvements sales tax approved by voters in November 2005.
Providence Road currently ends just north of Vandiver Drive and south of Bear Creek. The extension will punch through a wooded area near the Parkade, Hunter's Gate and Vanderveen neighborhoods.
The extension should ease the flow of traffic to parts of north Columbia that have developed rapidly in recent years. Plans for a major shopping center at Blue Ridge Road and Range Line Street, immediately east of the Providence Road extension, have been in the works for a few years and appear poised to move forward once the extension is done.
The city also plans to build a fire station at the intersection of Providence Road and Blue Ridge Road. The extension will connect with a section of Providence Road that has been built by Vanderveen developers in recent years. Once the connection is made, Providence will extend uninterrupted all the way to Smiley Lane.
As it stands, much of the north-south traffic in the area travels parallel streets, including Garth Avenue, where long lines of traffic stack up at four-ways stops during morning and evening rush hours.
According to traffic counts done by the city, county and state, Garth Avenue in 2006 was carrying 5,259 cars per day, compared with 2,142 in 1997. That's about a 250 percent increase. Statistics from 2006 were the latest available.
“The north side of Columbia has grown a lot in the last several years,” said Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the city Public Works Department.
Stedem said the Providence Road project will be financed by four sources: the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission Service Transportation Urban Program, the city's transportation and capital improvements sales taxes and development fees.
The extension of Providence Road has long been planned and is part of the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization’s 2030 plan, which maps construction projects up until that year.
Emery Sapp & Sons of Columbia will do the work and expects to have it done by midfall, according to a news release from the Public Works Department.