COLUMBIA — Cars sped by as Alexis Smith and Tina Bolton waited to walk across Providence Road during their lunch hour Monday. The two Hickman High School juniors said they've seen students have near-misses with cars as they cross the intersection.
At its next meeting, the Columbia City Council will decide whether to ask contractors to bid on sidewalk improvements along Providence Road, including the intersection with Business Loop 70 East adjacent to Hickman. The estimated cost is $830,000.
There are no pedestrian signals at the intersection, and students have to cross six lanes of traffic on Providence to get to restaurants such as Taco Bell and McDonald's. The plan includes new pedestrian signals at all four corners of the intersection and a wider sidewalk on Providence between Wilkes Boulevard and Vandiver Drive.
Bolton said she's had close calls walking through the Providence-Business Loop intersection.
"I almost got hit by a car once," she said. In that incident, a car turning left onto Providence from Business Loop came close to running into her. "They're supposed to yield to us, but this guy didn't."
Both students said school officials warn students to be careful when crossing the streets.
"They're like, 'Don't jaywalk, use a crosswalk,'" Smith said. "I try to listen, but if there's no cars, and it's green, I’ll cross."
The council originally approved the sidewalk proposal last October. Since then, the city has amended its planned construction process to avoid having to get an easement from the owner of Car Barn at the northwest corner of Providence and Business Loop.
"The plan itself isn't different," city transportation engineer Richard Stone said. "It was a question of construction."
The city also will make curbs at the corners of the intersection wider to give pedestrians more room to stand and to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"We added a better pathway from where the students currently spill out," Stone said. "Currently it's a staircase that's not ADA (compliant)."
The contractor will remove the staircase and replace it with a ramp, making it easier for students to use.
Along Providence, the sidewalk will be widened to 10 or 12 feet, depending on what part of the road it is on. This will make it easier for bicyclists and pedestrians to share the sidewalk, Stone said. It will also allow people in wheelchairs to pass others on the sidewalk.
The construction is scheduled for the coming summer so that it won't affect activities at the school.
Of the estimated $830,000 expense, $520,000 will go toward the intersection and $310,000 will go toward the sidewalk. The city will pay for it with money from a federal grant it received for projects that encourage bicycling and walking.