Residents of Bourn Avenue speak up for calmer traffic

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | 10:03 p.m. CST; updated 10:10 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 16, 2010

COLUMBIA — Columbia City Council is addressing concerns raised one month ago by residents of Bourn Avenue who worry a new commercial development could increase high-speed traffic in the area.

Two possible solutions to speeding cars on the street were recommended as options at Monday's council meeting: speed humps and speed tables, or an "open road closure" in an effort to clearly segregate residential traffic from commercial traffic. A neighborhood meeting is in the process of being set up to discuss these options; residents will be able to approve the plan, or not, after this meeting has taken place.

"We have existing problems on the street," said Steve MacIntyre, chair of the Bourn Avenue Neighborhood Association. "There are concerns that adding commercial items on the street would make those problems worse."

At an October meeting, the council approved a rezoning and commercial development plan for Leawood Plaza — much to the dismay of several residents on Bourn Avenue.

According to minutes taken at the meeting, residents expressed concern for the development because drivers trying to avoid Stadium already create high-speed cut-through traffic. The avenue, which is located just one block west of the Broadway and Stadium intersection, is home to more than 20 children and Good Shepherd Lutheran School.

In a 2007 study commissioned by the city, the intersection of Broadway and Stadium was dubbed the most dangerous intersection on the West Broadway corridor, MacIntyre said. More than 30 accidents have occurred at the intersection in the last 5 years, he said.

Scott Bitterman, a traffic engineer for the city, said Bourn Avenue meets the criteria for a traffic-slowing solution. Eighty-five percent of cars were traveling at or below 40 mph on Bourn Avenue while the other 15 percent were traveling faster than 40 mph. In a residential area like Bourn Avenue, the speed limit is 25 mph.

The first option is to install two speed humps and two speed tables on the street. The devices, spaced about 500 feet apart, would slow traffic but not completely eliminate commercial traffic. Each hump and table costs approximately $3,000 and would be completed prior to the development of Leawood Plaza.

The second option is to install an "open road closure," which would eliminate unnecessary traffic by creating a 5-foot wide bicycle lane with ramps on either side. By also installing 'Do Not Enter' signs, only emergency and garbage vehicles would have access to the ramps. This option would cost $10,000 for a basic open road closure, and $40,000 for a more aesthetic installation with colored concrete or trees.

There are no open road closures in Columbia, but it is a solution that could be feasible for Bourn Avenue, Bitterman said.

Aaron Smith, a local attorney and the developer of the Leawood Plaza site, has offered $10,000 of his own money to help mitigate the traffic problem, MacIntyre said.

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