COLUMBIA — State highway planners have settled on their preferred location for a long-anticipated extension of Stadium Boulevard, but they still lack money to design the road, acquire right of way and then build it.
The Missouri Department of Transportation, which held an open house on the project and accompanying road improvements on Thursday, is continuing to solicit online input from the public on its East Columbia Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The document evaluates how the road projects could affect the natural and man-made environment of the area.
Those who want to provide input on the East Columbia Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which outlines plans for an extension of Stadium Boulevard and accompanying road projects, can do so online at www.eastcolumbiaeis.com. Or they can submit written comments by mail. Send them to East Columbia EIS, 1034 South Brentwood Blvd., Suite 2300, St. Louis, MO 63117. MoDOT will accept public input through May 18.
MoDOT teamed up with the city of Columbia, Boone County and the engineering firm CH2M Hill to narrow down a set of four alternatives.
Mike Dusenberg, planning manager for MoDOT's District 5, which includes Boone County, thinks the department has chosen the best plan for the area.
“We’ve spent three-and-a-half years collecting data and collaborated with the county and the city and assessed their long-term needs and issues, so I think this is definitely the best alternative,” Dusenberg said of the draft.
The "preferred alternative" includes plans to extend Stadium Boulevard east of U.S. 63 to the Lake of the Woods interchange at Interstate 70 and St. Charles Road. It also calls for extending Ballenger Lane across I-70 to connect with Stadium Boulevard south of the interstate. Broadway would be realigned and widened to four lanes as far east as Olivet Road.
The proposal also reflects an existing city plan to convert Rolling Hills Road into a major street running north and south.
In November 2006, a set of nine prospective plans were introduced. Those were then narrowed to four and finally to a single "preferred alternative". The factors MoDOT weighed included traffic congestion, safety, the number and type of displaced structures, potential environmental issues and projected costs.
The projects as described in the preferred alternative would cost a total of about $132.2 million. That figure includes the purchase of 275 acres of right of way. The roads would displace a total of 37 structures, including 15 homes and Boone County Fire Station No. 12, which will be affected by the widening of Route WW. (Broadway becomes Route WW east of U.S. 63.)
Dusenberg said that the chosen alternative was cheaper than others and that all of the options would displace at least 14 homes.
Residents turned out at the open house, held at the Elks Lodge on Route WW, to offer their input. Dan Sommer, project engineer for CH2M Hill, said the public's voice has been important throughout the process.
“The preferred alternative is not by any means final,” Sommer said at the open house. "Any comments made tonight could still be incorporated into the final design."
Sommer said plans for the final draft would be finished around the end of the summer, after public comment is considered. The proposal will then be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval.
Eric Shroeter, assistant district engineer for MoDOT, said he has heard more positive than negative comments.
“The most common question is: ‘When can you start?’” Shroeter said.
Fran and Marsha Herin of Daniel Boone Boulevard said they look forward to several benefits of the Stadium extension, including less road congestion.
Fran Herin said he was "a little concerned at first" that the work could cause their residential subdivision to become commercialized and the nearby woods to be bulldozed. Overall, the Herins said they favor the projects.
“Being retired, the best part about it is almost instant access to all medical facilities,” Fran Herin said.
Dale Coble, who has lived on St. Charles Road for 14 years, is less enthusiastic about plans for the Stadium extension, which he said would cut through the middle of his kitchen. Although the extension would split his 28-acre property in half, MoDOT would buy only the narrow strip of land necessary for the highway.
“It’s a shame to lose everything you work for and search for,” Coble said. “We looked for years to find land like that. We kept it so pristine and undisturbed. It’s a shame to lose it because it’s in the path of least resistance.”
Coble called the circumstances “unfortunate” but acknowledged it could be years before construction begins.
Shroeter said there's been no discussion of where money for the projects would come from. Once the work is approved, MoDOT, and both city and county officials will begin to brainstorm about how to raise the money. If it doesn't fit into MoDOT's budget, Shroeter said other options would include raising the money through a group effort.
"Right now, everything's on the table," Shroeter said.
MoDOT was unable to apply for federal stimulus money for the project because it's in its earliest stages.
“There were a number of stipulations and guidelines involved with applying for stimulus money because it was designed to create jobs now," Shroeter said.