COLUMBIA — After two years of construction, phase one of the Scott Boulevard project in west Columbia is nearly done.
There are still some red-orange-and-white cones and heavy equipment at the site, and crews have been mowing the new grass median. Much of the area remains muddy from the tracks of heavy machinery. The work zone also carries the scent of manure used to fertilize the grass.
The construction, which began in May 2009, is widening the road to four lanes and adding bicycle lanes and sidewalks. Assistant Public Works Director David Nichols said in an email that crews are hoping to finish in August.
The work done thus far represents the first of a three-phase strategy for Scott Boulevard. Although the first phase was estimated to cost $16.1 million, expenses to date are under budget at $14.9 million. That includes spending on design, right of way and construction, Nichols said.
Despite the progress on the project, which has disrupted traffic on the boulevard and in surrounding neighborhoods, residents of the area still have concerns.
Bright Start Academy director Vanessa Soto said she's worried the lack of a traffic signal at the intersection of Scott Boulevard and Rainbow Trout Drive might endanger parents and their children as they come and go from the school.
“Parents have voiced the concerns that they can’t get out of the school safely with their children because there is no traffic light at the construction," Soto said. "And it’s a busy road when people pick up their children and try to get home. ... Parents asked me if I’d be able to contact people to put a traffic light up there. I said I might try, but I don’t think they would listen.”
Nichols said there are no plans to install a signal at the crossing.
Complaints about traffic aren't limited to intersections that lack signals. Ozan Dague, a manager of Kostaki’s Pizzeria in the Village of Cherry Hill, said a temporary signal at Scott Boulevard and Chapel Hill Road has been a hassle for his delivery drivers.
“If the construction had finished, our delivery would’ve been a lot quicker,” Dague said.
With the first phase winding down, city staff will take an ordinance to the Columbia City Council asking for the go-ahead to acquire right of way for the second phase sometime this fall, Nichols said.
Phase one consists of expanding the road to four lanes and creating a center median from Rollins Road to Brookview Terrace. Phases two and three will extend improvements south to Route KK, but those sections won't be expanded to four lanes.
The estimated costs of phase two and three are $4.5 million and $8.6 million, respectively, and include reconstructing bridges at Hinkson and Mill creeks. The entire project, which will cost around $28 million in total, was approved by voters as part of a 2005 ballot issue.