COLUMBIA — Residents and city officials praised improvements to western Columbia's Scott Boulevard during a ribbon cutting on Monday afternoon, which marked the completion of the first phase of the project.
Improvements included the widening of Scott Boulevard to four lanes and the installation of a bike lane, sound barriers and fences to improve safety at the Daniel Boone Little League Complex. The project cost $16.2 million.
Columbia's population has increased by 85 percent over the past 40 years, according to information provided by the city. Scott Boulevard has become a major travel route for fast growing areas in the city's south and west. In addition to the dangers inherent to a narrow two-lane roadway, the hilly street makes it difficult for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to see each other.
Matt Pulle, an MU law student and resident of the Village of Cherry Hill, which is located off Scott Boulevard, was enthusiastic about the changes.
"My wife and I absolutely love the improvements of Scott Boulevard," Pulle said. "Both of us love to run, and this makes getting to the MKT trail really easy."
Pulle noted that the improvements reduce the chance of flooding and encourage residents to pursue more active, healthier lifestyles.
Eric Dewayne, who also lives along Scott Boulevard, said the new road will make nighttime activities safer. Before, joggers and people walking their dogs risked being hit by cars after dark because the road was narrow and lacked walkways.
In October, the city will plant trees in the area as one of the final measures of phase one, said Jill Stedem, spokeswoman for the Columbia Public Works Department.
With phase one improvements complete, Public Works Director John Glascock said the city will need to do a traffic study to see how fast people are actually driving on Scott Boulevard, where the speed limit is 35 mph. Based on that study, city staff might suggest an increase of the speed limit, though it won't exceed 45 mph. The City Council would need to approve any increase.
City Manager Mike Matthes said the Scott Boulevard project improved more than 10,000 feet of roadway. Sixty-two percent of the work was financed by non-local sources. The Federal Highway Administration chipped in $3.5 million and the Missouri Department of Transportation $6.5 million. Columbia and Boone County contributed the rest.
"These improvements would not be possible without the support of the City Council," Matthes said.
Council members Daryl Dudley and Helen Anthony of the Fourth and Fifth Wards, respectively, thanked the people who worked on the project and the property owners along the boulevard for their patience.
Anthony said the second phase of the project would begin in 2013 and will take nine to 11 months to complete.
"Just hang in with us for a few more years,” she said.
The second phase calls for rebuilding a two-lane section of Scott Boulevard from the MKT Trail to Vawter School Road. That phase will include a bridge over Hinkson Creek and the realignment of Brushwood Lake Road.
Full funding for phase two has not yet been secured. The project will cost an estimated $4.7 million. Stedem said the city will figure out the funding when officials start working on the fiscal 2013 budget next spring and summer.
The city's Capital Improvement Program indicates that the county may contribute to phase two. Boone County Presiding Commissioner Ed Robb said the county has a new funding mechanism in place that should make money available for the project.