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.
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.