GUEST COLUMN: West Broadway plan a folly of Titanic proportions

Thursday, June 11, 2009 | 9:59 a.m. CDT; updated 11:05 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The present Community Advisory Committee for the West Broadway expansion is charged with tweaking a few of the design options and making suggestions. It is this participant's belief that all major decisions have been made elsewhere.  The question is where and when, and by whom.  Without being there, I question City Council's motives. Did it want to show off the painted GetAbout Columbia paths and love of a parkway, or did it want to create a workable street where cars and bikes and residents can coexist in harmony?  If it was the latter, it has certainly failed miserably.



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As many citizens were not there for the first widening attempt, a brief history is in order. West Broadway was part of the local/state system.  Today, most is controlled by Columbia. Numerous old elms lined the roadway. It was not blighted as it is today with broken curbs and sidewalks. Stately trees grew instead of shrub trees. When the state and city suddenly proposed plowing a four-lane monster with a 10-foot yellow line and center median, people could not take to the transition. A mystique of romantic grandeur has surrounded this area despite traffic growth and blighted conditions.


There is lot of misleading information being spread about this situation. Various residents say: Why ruin the feel of our estates for two short traffic periods a day? For one, there are four peak times a day, according to a report by Stinson, Morrison and Hecker: Morning rush, noon, school release and evening crawl. Broadway reaches critical mass during this final period. Second, to say West Broadway is under capacity by using numbers generated from the traffic and engineering firm Crawford, Bunte and Brammeier is purposely deceptive. The city stated in 2003 that 15,000 cars was the capacity for West Broadway. In 2007, the same firm used the number 20,000 as capacity. Then they used five days of spring break as counting days and still could not stay under 15,000 cars a day. Their study is little better than a hoax — not worth the paper it is printed on.

Many council members and West Broadway residents want to carry forward the mystique that West Broadway is historical. I have no objection to labeling a few of these houses as charming or old, but it grinds my sensitivities when our council lies to us. Broadway is historical? Not. Big yards and more square feet do not make these homes more important than yours or mine. If you want to give a council person fits, ask him or her to give you a short talk on the important history of West Broadway.

They say four lanes is a highway, but is not. Look at West Broadway between Garth and Aldeah. This is an attractive four-lane street. It looks good. This area is not going to be a highway no matter how many times they tell us this.

Flawed study and plan

When taking the traffic count, Crawford, Bunte and Brammeier chose March 28, 2007, to April 9, 2007.  Spring break started at MU on March 25, and classes resumed on April 2. Half of the traffic count for West Broadway is seriously undercounted, and therefore the study is flawed. Columbia has paid thousands for this study, and in my opinion did so only to justify decisions already made, I know not where. I doubt it would do any good to have it redone.

This plan was quietly presented to our council months ago. The firm is now nowhere to be found. Our present Community Advisory Committee cannot ask them about the need for a local traffic plan, about safety issues, about whether two lanes each way or one-way streets might be cheaper or better. I would like to ask them where they came up with the idea for roundabouts (two on West Broadway and three on West Ash). Did the city tell the traffic and engineering firm what they wanted regardless of what the figures indicated was needed or the cost?

Conflict of interest

This project is little more than a decorating of the street in front of prominent residents' homes. The council plans to decorate (landscape) these homes almost for free while doing little for the rest of Columbia. The mayor favors dedicating large tracks of the street for showing of his PetNet Project while commuters struggle to get across town from a hard day of work with the help of a few left-turn lanes. Bike lanes were once planned for shaded and less traveled streets such as Ash. Now West Broadway will showcase these painted, mostly empty lanes at detrimental costs to the citizen.

This plan not only lessens the residential feel of homes on Ash, West Worley and Stewart, but in my estimation damages their families' quality of life by pushing even more traffic down their narrow streets. The front doors of these people's homes are three times as close to the curb as those on West Broadway.

The mayor says the decision has been made on West Broadway. I ask, when did he make his decree? I must have missed it. When did he justify the damage that he is doing to families on parallel streets and commuters on West Broadway?


Has the council ever asked why, if two lanes divided by a parkway are so desirable, we don't see more of them? The answer is that the better ones take up a lot of land. They are expensive to build and expensive to maintain. They move traffic by having limited access. You can only enter or exit infrequently. To think we can retrofit Broadway to be a good parkway is a major stretch of reality. The design team tried to make this a reality in 121 pages and with 45 major access changes to shops, homes and side streets along West Broadway. This does not even count the minimum of four roundabouts on West Broadway and Ash Street. The money spent onthis plan and the inconvenience it causes will make the once infamous loop through downtown seem like a pleasant cakewalk down memory lane.

A better path forward

West Broadway needs a plan for all contingencies. Two attractive lanes are needed in each direction, lanes such as those between Garth and Aldeah. The simple truth is that two lanes each way will double the capacity of West Broadway from 20,000 to 40,000 cars, thus ensuring this main east-west street will have an excellent traffic flow for the rest of the century at a reasonable cost. Throw in a number of reasonably large and healthy oak trees along the way, and we will have a beautiful and exciting look as legendary "Fair Oaks."

What makes more sense — one lane each way, a strip of grass with a few left turns, dedicated bike lanes empty six months a year or more and continuous bumper-to-bumper traffic — or two lanes each way with empty space to allow entrance onto West Broadway? Signal crosswalks used only as needed are a much superior way to cross Broadway than running for a parkway. There is no question that two lanes each way will work. One lane each way as planned is an expensive gamble, at best. I fear the plan of City Council is to quickly make a parkway between Garth and West Boulevard, and then we are stuck with this flawed folly forever.


There is a stench caused by the current process I will not abide. There is the rotten smell of privilege and patronage of double standard, of secretiveness and collusion. We are being taken to the cleaners by a few powerful residents who want a lopsided tail wagging the dog deal, who knew a day would come when a little sacrifice would be needed for the common good. Bike lanes and decorations have replaced traffic concerns and safety hindering 20,000 residents a day in their pursuit of happiness and commerce. If your leaders will not stand up for the greater good, it's time to become active and stand up for yourselves or suffer this folly.

Contact your council representatives and tell them you want open debate. The West Broadway issue is not decided until we the people have been informed. We are the body politic. The City Council has misused the trust we granted members when they were elected. We are determined that the West Broadway plan conceived at under-publicized  meetings will not be a folly of Titanic proportions.

Roger Gadbois is a retired tradesman who is concerned about civic affairs. He is a Boone County resident and a member of the Community Advisory Committee for the West Broadway expansion.

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Eric Cox June 11, 2009 | 2:41 p.m.

Roger points out a flawed study with an unsupported assumption "Half of the traffic count for West Broadway is seriously undercounted, and therefore the study is flawed.-Roger Gadbois" Where is your support for "half is seriously undercounted" did you complete you own study that you are not mentioning? The people who live along West Broadway paid a premium for those yards not to have the street running right past their front door, the way I see it is it's a package deal, if they city wants it the can purchase the entire property. The only stench I smell is from this project and what you are shoveling here Roger.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro June 11, 2009 | 4:46 p.m.

If there are problems under the roadway I say fix them.
As far as what's above the surface, for now let it be.
Improve the traffic control devices and assign a "traffic cop"
on an "as-needed" basis.
Stop spending money on studies which manipulate reality.
Let's get real here and make other more important issues our priorities.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox June 11, 2009 | 6:30 p.m.

ray shapiro right, as my wife was just mentioning, didn't they just cut education spending, where is all this money for W. Broadway, Mongo Parking Garage, and brand new City Hall coming from? Well it's coming from you and I, personally I'd rather to see an over educated population stuck in traffic, than a bunch of idiots flying around on open roads. Maybe we could build a cafeteria large enough to feed the students at Hickman, more police, I bet I could spend all day thinking of better uses for this money.

I live off of Broadway near W Boulevard and use both daily, I just don't see the need, I almost never wait and even then it is usually very short, one stop light cycle in most cases.

As for the stench of privilege, I think I was pulling down all of about 12 bucks an hour when I purchased my home in a nice old quite neighborhood, the same one I want to live in in the future. I don't know what Roger has against the people living in this great old neighborhood, but not too long ago there was a block party and I meet some of the nicest community centric people I could hope to meet. Not a bunch of privileged secretive collusive people.

Someone passes out fliers downtown that sound just like this article, only the bitterness is stronger, I wonder if those come from Roger too.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 11, 2009 | 6:47 p.m.

City expenditures have no bearing on how much is spent (or not spent) by the school district.

(Report Comment)
Eric Cox June 11, 2009 | 10:03 p.m.

John Schultz is that not our tax money? So how we allocate money has no affect on educational spending? Really? Is this one of those different pockets arguments?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz June 11, 2009 | 11:28 p.m.

The city does not collect nor spend (much) money on the schools. The schools collect their tax money via property taxes and are totally separate from the city and county. One can argue that how the state allocates money affects how much fiscal pie is left over for primary and secondary education, but that is not true of the city, county, and public school districts.

(Report Comment)
T Thorpe June 12, 2009 | 3:15 p.m.

FOUR lanes for W. Broadway? I have yet to spend more than 3 or 4 minutes driving through this area even at 5:30PM. I wait longer to get through the light at Providence and Stadium at rush hour, and that's 4 lanes each way!

I'm sure we could make W. Broadway as beautiful as Providence Road or College Avenue with the help of folks like Roger. Heck, let's put in a couple of gas stations and a Hardee's, while we're at it.

(Report Comment)
Jason Entermyer June 12, 2009 | 3:55 p.m.

Cox, your tax arguements are baseless. Taxes are taxes makes no sense. The city can no more control the school district spending than vice versa. Why don't you just say Obama is part of this conspiracy as well? (wait, leave that to Ray)

I travel to/from Broadway daily and it should have some improvements. If I remember correctly, wasn't the final plan based on a compromise among the neighbors and businesses that will ultimately, be the most impacted? If so, that's the plan that should be implemented and someone that lives in the far north like RG should accept the fact that his idea wasn't accepted.

(Report Comment)
Deb Sheals July 3, 2009 | 12:33 p.m.

Do we as a community really want to slice one of the town's most stable residential neghborhoods in half with an expressway? I don't think many Columbians want to see this stretch of road turned into a river of concrete. The city has been prudent enough to study this issue and identify a way to address traiffic issues without doing more harm than good. That would seem to be good government, not bad. This has been going on for years and has had plenty of press; I do not see anything secretive about it.
Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard near the Mall are far more congested than West Broadway--should they become eight or ten lanes?

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 3, 2009 | 12:47 p.m.

Why not do as ray shapiro suggested and make Worley and Ash streets one way thorough fares during the rush hours and leave Broadway alone. One West and one East.

Sure this city got away from alot of one way streets in the past but this is not the past it is the here and now folks and something solid,secure and safe should be implemented before tearing apart people's lives and their front yards.

Is it the fault of the home owners on Broadway that the city forefathers did not have the education or intellect enough to foresee future growth and development logically enough to plan ahead for just this cause we now face. No it is not but it is up to the city council,traffic engineer,CPD and other related entities to come up with a sound solution or get the employees hired and elected who know how too get it done.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 3, 2009 | 2:43 p.m.

Leave Broadway (and Ash and Worley) alone. To hear people crying about a rush quarter-hour twice a day is ridiculous. Leave earlier (or later) or find a different route.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr July 3, 2009 | 2:59 p.m.

>>> Leave earlier (or later) or find a different route. <<<

That would work too John but as we all know that is part of having common sense which is a rare hereditary trait not found in Missourians these days nor around our nation for that matter.

(Report Comment)

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