Columbia, Boone County reveal federal funding requests

Project cost estimates total $272 million
Monday, November 29, 2010 | 6:44 p.m. CST; updated 11:50 p.m. CST, Monday, November 29, 2010

COLUMBIA — The city of Columbia and Boone County have released a preliminary federal funding request for the upcoming legislative session. While their wish list totals more than $272 million, Assistant City Manager Paula Hertwig Hopkins is not expecting full or partial funding for many of the projects, at least for the upcoming year.

“We have been successful in obtaining funding in the long-run for our projects," Hopkins said. "Some have been on the list for years, but we will keep them on the list until full or partial funding is received.”

Hopkins said that a final list will be presented to the staffs of U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen.-elect Roy Blunt along with 9th District U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer after receiving City Council approval in January. At the end of January and in early February, Hopkins said, she and several other city employees will go to Washington, D.C., to speak with the elected officials.

The funding requests are for several different kinds of projects, primarily focusing on public works and infrastructure. Here's a summary:

Road projects

Both Columbia and Boone County officials are requesting the greatest amount of money for major street and highway projects in east Columbia. They total $133 million.

That amount includes $40 million for the extension of Stadium Boulevard from its eastern end to Interstate 70 near Lake of the Woods Road, $59 million for changes to Route WW and $34 million for Ballenger Lane.

Buddy Desai, a consulting project manager with CH2M Hill, said Route WW could be widened from two lanes to four.

“Since there is no funding currently for the project, it may take some time to see the improvements,” he said.  “It could take as little as two years, but it may also take over a decade if there are difficulties with funding.”

Desai, however, said there now is environmental clearance to expand the highway up to four lanes.

The city's Major Thoroughfare Plan calls for extending Ballenger Lane across I-70 and hooking into the Stadium extension. “This should alleviate the traffic concerns in the area,” Desai said.

The city also is requesting money for several other road projects, including an additional $6 million for improving Route WW.

The city is requesting almost $12.5 million to pay for the installation of traffic signals and other work on the Route AC overpass at U.S. 63. It also wants $17 million to extend Scott Boulevard to the north and build an interchange at I-70 near Midway, west of the Stadium Boulevard interchange.

Finally, the city is seeking $2.5 million to finance work on the Avenue of the Columns on Eighth Street.

Airport and public transportation

The city and county are asking for $15 million to upgrade and remodel the terminal building at Columbia Regional Airport in anticipation of more passengers. The city is also requesting $24.6 million to reconstruct  and lengthen the main runway and extend a parallel taxiway.

To further the economic viability of the airport, both the city and county hope to get $11 million to construct an overpass at Route H. Both parties hope to reduce traffic concerns associated with highway interchanges near the airport.

The city also wants $11 million to upgrade 21 miles of railroad track that the city's COLT rail line uses.

Finally, the city of Columbia is requesting more than $3.75 million to buy six paratransit vans and nine buses 35 to 40 feet long.

Environmental projects

Both the city and county are asking for $12.7 million to build a wastewater treatment plant in the Two-Mile Prairie region of southern Boone County. Tom Ratermann, general manager of the Boone County Regional Sewer District, said the facility would be built next to a treatment plant in Ashland due to both environmental and economic factors

“Sen. Jean Carnahan had received a special appropriation for $200,000 for the planning of the facility,” Ratermann said. He believes, though, that federal funding would be difficult to obtain for construction of the treatment plant.

“Ultimately, I think we will get the funding for the plant through loans from the state revolving fund,” he said.

Columbia also wants $21 million from the federal government for a demonstration project that would allow it to burn agricultural byproducts at the Municipal Power Plant. The project would be done in three phases. The money would allow the city to build a facility to collect and process the biomass, which would then be transported by rail to the plant. Ultimately, the facility would be able to produce 20 megawatts of power from agricultural biomass.

Water and Light Director Tad Johnsen wrote in a memo to Hopkins that burning more biomass fuel from agricultural byproducts could be an economic boost to the area.

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