COLUMBIA — Two engineering aides from the Columbia Public Works Department stood next to crisp design proposals Wednesday, prepared to answer questions about improvement projects on Broadway and Business Loop 70 East.
Dave Watson and Jennifer Hudson shared proposals for sidewalk and waterline improvements to two major Columbia thoroughfares at an informal presentation. Engineer chatter about these and other proposals filled the room.
The meeting was open to any interested parties — primarily affected business owners — to discuss concerns or ideas about the project. Turnout was low, but Watson said this is not unusual. This was the first official meeting; the proposals will also be reviewed at public hearings and by the City Council.
Both projects should be finished by the end of the year.
East Broadway, between Eighth and Ninth streets
The downtown proposal would replace substandard curbs and sidewalks and add fire flow waterlines to the south side of the street.
Watson described the Broadway project as a squeaking wheel finally getting grease.
“Owners on the block have complained about the cracks and unevenness in the sidewalk there,” Watson said. “Projects like this tend to get done faster when people make an issue of the situation.”
The project will cost an estimated $250,000, to be shared between the city and business owners on the block. Although most of the owners have been supportive, several have raised concerns over cost and financing, Watson said.
Watson said he hopes to have the project under contract by June and finished by July. The construction could take as little as four weeks, he said, but unpredictable weather and construction issues make it difficult to determine an exact timetable. Watson emphasized the importance of having the project done by the end of the summer when university students come back and the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival happens.
The new sidewalk would adhere to Columbia’s uniformity guideline for the downtown area; Watson pointed to the sidewalks outside the Boone County National Bank branch, 720 E. Broadway, as an example.
Further public hearings on this project have not yet been scheduled.
Business Loop 70 East, between Jefferson and Jackson streets
The other proposal would relocate a waterline and replace sidewalks on the south side of the street.
Hudson, the department’s engineering aide assigned to this proposal, said fewer space constraints would make this project less difficult and less drastic than the one downtown.
The sidewalk component is budgeted at $200,000, said Stuart King, supervising engineer for the organization funding the project. Although the sidewalk there is still in fairly good condition, the department thinks doing it simultaneously will ultimately save money, King said.
This proposal is still in the early stages; estimated costs and timetables have not yet been finalized. The project would be funded as part of Columbia’s Capital Improvement Program.