COLUMBIA — Bear Creek rippled underneath as Mayor Darwin Hindman and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce cut the ribbon opening the north extension of Providence Road.
Held on the new bridge over Bear Creek that is part of the project, Tuesday afternoon’s ceremony marked the opening of the 4,100-foot extension of Providence Road between Vandiver Drive and Blue Ridge Road.
City officials view the new road as "the gateway to north Columbia." They said it will make travel within the city easier and will reduce the heavy traffic that can build up in the area.
“This is a very important project for Columbia," Hindman said. "We don’t have enough connections between north and south. We needed this.”
The project cost $4.7 million. The money came from the Service Transportation Urban Program of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, development fees, the city’s capital fund balance, the city’s transportation sales tax and the capital improvement sales tax voters approved in November 2005.
The Providence extension is the fifth project to be completed of the 15 that the capital improvement sales tax will finance.
Sidewalks for walkers and cyclists connected by ramps to Bear Creek Trail underneath run on either side of the road. Newly planted trees also line the road.
“This is the way streets should be built, and we’re building them that way from here on out,” Hindman said.
The road was originally scheduled to open in October, but last month's heavy rains delayed completion by preventing landscaping and the installation of sidewalk rails.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said the extension will improve access to the new Fire Station No. 9, which will open soon. The new roadway is located in the Second Ward. He also said the road will help mitigate traffic on Garth Avenue, a street west of Providence that runs north-south.
“It will help return Garth Avenue to a residential street with reasonable traffic as it was always intended,” Thornhill said.
Traffic on Garth Avenue increased more than 200 percent between 1997 and 2009 according to traffic counts collected by the the Missouri Department of Transportation every three years. This spring, Garth Avenue was carrying an average of 6,721 cars per day, compared to 2,142 vehicles per day in 1997.
Mike Guilford, store manager at Carquest Autoparts and Paint located on Providence Road just north Vandiver Drive, has noticed heavy traffic on Garth Avenue.
“Right now everybody’s just cutting up Garth to get around, and that gets pretty hectic because it’s a two-lane street,” Guilford said. “It should help business, I would hope.”
Jessica Hilton, an agent at the State Farm Insurance at 1900 N. Providence Road, said she thinks the extension will help some of her customers avoid the traffic on Range Line Street, another roadway that runs north-south and is currently under construction.
“I think it’s going to be excellent for people leaving our parking lot,” Hilton said. “We have a lot of customers that are ready for it to open because they live on Creasy Springs and they have to take Range Line (Street) that’s still under construction or cut around the back way and take Vandiver. It will cut off time.”
Moresource Inc. Vice President Jamie Nelson said that some commuters could choose to drive by the payroll benefits and insurance company's location at 1900 N. Providence Road rather than taking Range Line Street. He said this could increase business for the company's insurance arm that has been affected by the economy.
“I feel it will open up some prospects for business, because most of the time you’d have to go 763, so you wouldn’t see our office at all,” Nelson said. “Now they would be more passing in front of our office. Let’s hope it opens up more business.”