City, residents seek slowdown on West Boulevard

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — City officials and Columbia residents living along West Boulevard are discussing ways to limit or completely prohibit commercial trucks from using a mile-long stretch of the street.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade has proposed an ordinance that would prohibit all commercial trucks from using West Boulevard as a through street from its intersection with I-70 Drive Southwest to the north and Stadium Boulevard to the south. That stretch of road contains two school zones and several commercial properties but is mostly residential.

The legislation was proposed amid concerns from residents living along the street pertaining to safety issues created not only by trucks passing through the busy two-lane street but also speeding motorists. The street is one of a few north-south thoroughfares in the city.

The Columbia City Council was scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its regular meeting Monday but decided to table the matter until its July 6 meeting. A Public Works report indicated it did not recommend passage of the ordinance because it would be difficult for police to discern delivery trucks from trucks using the street as a through road.

Pamela Cooper, a West Boulevard resident, said the issue was brought up last year during meetings of GetAbout Columbia that involved pedestrian safety.

Cooper said the street attracts high-speed traffic because it has fewer stoplights and signs than the next closest north-south thoroughfare – Stadium Boulevard – and widens after its intersection with Stewart Road. This prompts motorists to drive faster, she said.

“I really like this neighborhood,” Cooper said. “I really like the ambiance.”

But, she said, the neighborhood could improve if speeding traffic was contained. She said crossing the street at certain high-traffic times of the day is comparable to “taking your life in your hands.”

Peter Stiepleman, principal at West Boulevard Elementary School, said the school operates one of the largest Walking School Bus programs in the city.

Wade said the school zones on the street were a particular concern for the city and residents.

“That’s a safety issue we need to address,” Wade said.

Wade, Public Works officials and residents have met to seek a compromise between residents’ concerns and concerns raised by Public Works.

One recommendation made by Public Works is the installation of two roundabouts on West Boulevard, where it intersects with Ash Street and Stewart Road.

Wade said it was not likely that plan would be adopted because the construction would intrude on private property at those intersections.

Cooper said construction of the roundabouts would cause a “public uproar” because residents living at those corners would lose large pieces of their yards.

Wade said other ideas that residents and city officials considered are the addition of four-way stops at the street’s intersection with Rollins Road and banning commercial trucks in the street’s school zones from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 3 to 5 p.m.

John Cleek, who owns three commercial properties at the intersection of the street and West Worley Street, said commercial truck traffic hasn't been a problem for him.  

“It looks like they’re trying to create a problem that doesn’t exist,” Cleek said.

Patricia Hoddinott, who lives on Prospect Street, which intersects with West Boulevard, said residents and city officials will meet again June 17 to discuss the issue.



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Ray Shapiro May 19, 2009 | 12:20 a.m.

("Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade has proposed an ordinance that would prohibit all commercial trucks from using West Boulevard as a through street from its intersection with I-70 Drive Southwest to the north and Stadium Boulevard to the south.")
I like what Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade has proposed.
He is a smart, well-trusted man and I hope the ordinance attains fruition.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz May 19, 2009 | 7:10 p.m.

Yet another council proposal criminalizing an activity that is almost never seen by the police "in time" - such as the recent engine brake ban pushed by Chris Janku and the corner-cutting ordinance.

(Report Comment)
Clara Allen May 21, 2009 | 8:03 a.m.

crossing the street at certain high-traffic times of the day is comparable to “taking your life in your hands.”

It's NOT a street. It's a Boulevard. There's a difference. And in spite of it's designation as a boulevard it really does not carry a lot of truck traffic. Have there been any surveys indicating the level of truck traffic? Until there are numbers re: truck traffic indicating a problem it sounds as though someone's trying to create a problem that doesn't exist.

(Report Comment)
John M. Nowell, III May 21, 2009 | 8:38 a.m.

"That stretch of road contains two school zones ...."
Would some one enlighten me as to where the second school zone is?
I drive that stretch of road 3-4 times a week, and it has been my observation that people do respect the 20 m.p.h. school zone in front of West Boulevard Elementary School.

Law or no law, how would you ever enforce it? If you want to slow down cars, then hire more police personel, and start giving out tickets.

(Report Comment)
Pam Cooper May 26, 2009 | 12:42 p.m.

In response to the individual that stated that West is a "Boulevard" not a Street: Neither term carries any legal definition as to the amount or type of traffic it should or should not carry, so I don't understand the point of this comment. The fact is, West Blvd is thoroughfare that is primarily residential in nature, with more than 300 residential driveways along its length compared to only a few commercial ones. In the middle of all that are school zones.

The volume and speed of traffic through a primarily residential area that includes a school zone means that safety is an issue along this street--safety is always an issue on any street, but right now, NOTHING is in place to make West a safe street to walk, pedal or drive.

The problem with doing a study on truck traffic is that truck traffic on West ebbs and flows depending on the exctent of construction occuring in the city. As a resident living along West Blvd, I know that during periods of high construction and at certain times of the year when construction is at its peak due to good weather, dump trucks traverse West Blvd with great regularity; any "study" done would have to take into account these peaks. Right now we are in the middle of a recession, so construction is not near normal, so a study done at the now would give in accurate, non-normal data.

It is unfortunate that this issue got spun to both the council and the media as a *truck* is more generally a *traffic problem* with large numbers of vehicles going at high rates of speed through a primarily residential neighborhood.The truck problem is just the traffic problem taken to its logical extreme. West has this problem because in addition the extra width along some sections of the street, there are only two stoplights and one 4-way stop sign down the entire length of the street from I70 to Stadium--these attributes serve to create a situation in which large volumes of traffic, including trucks, get moving at very high speeds. Add to this that from Stewart Road down to Stadium, there are no sidewalks, bike strips or even "sharrows" for pedestrians. Sidewalks north of Stewart are crumbling and narrow, at times absent altogother. Living on West Blvd is in many senses worse than it would be living on the Business Loop: at least up there you have stoplights, crosswalks and sidewalks!

What the story did not report was that other alternatives to calm traffic besides banning trucks or building large yard-engulfing roundabouts are being investigated by Public Works and will be discussed with the residents of West the near future.

I hope that Missourian follows on this story will try to focus on how the city and residents are working together to solve this problem rather then continuing to spin this story as some sort of titanic clash between the city and residents or the residents and business owners.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 26, 2009 | 1:49 p.m.

While I am all for Jerry Wade's plan, have you also considered speed bumps?

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand May 26, 2009 | 2:47 p.m.

I thought West is supposed to get sidewalks later this year.

(Report Comment)
Pam Cooper May 27, 2009 | 5:40 p.m.

@ray shapiro

Among options being discussed are speed "tables" and so-called "sleeping policemen, aka mini-roundabouts. these The latter would be something similar to the objects they've erected on Hitt Street near the MU memorial union. Just something in the middle of the street to narrow it down and slow traffic down without making it stop.

@ayn rand

West was slated to get a sidewalk and a bike lane as part of the Getabout Columbia Project from Stewart down to Stadium. Due to budget shortfalls, that proposal was removed from the Getabout plan by the City Council last fall. Last I heard West was supposed to get bike stripes south of Stewart instead, but none there yet.

If there are plans to get sidewalks on areas north of Stewart related or unrelated to Getabout, I haven't heard anything about them. I think sidewalks are part of the city's long term plans for west, but its a function of having the money for them Getabout would have at least put them south of Stewart, but not now.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro May 27, 2009 | 8:30 p.m.

Personally, I'm against roundabouts, mini, maxi or regular.
Have you guys checked out this website?

(Report Comment)

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