Road closures lengthen trip to Columbia Regional Airport

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 | 5:31 p.m. CDT; updated 8:14 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 13, 2011

COLUMBIA — People arriving for the early flight out of Columbia Regional Airport aren't always as quiet as you'd expect people to be at 6:35 a.m.

Sometimes lately, they can be heard complaining about the lengthy detour to get to the airport.


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That detour is about to be replaced — with a longer one.

The Missouri Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that a new detour would be in place as early as Friday.

The new route will be approximately a mile longer than the six-mile detour now in place. The current route, which starts with a left at the Deer Park Break Time gas station and convenience store on Route AB from U.S. 63, has raised the ire of some travelers, especially those who were unaware of the detour.

The airport's website mentions the detour and links to a map of the surrounding area. However, the detour is not shown, and drivers aren't told where they're going until the signs appear.

Glenn Rice, a Columbia resident, recently flew out of the airport on the first leg of an international trip with his wife.

Rice, who was already running a little late for his flight, said he was surprised when he saw the detour signs to the airport. 

"I hadn't heard of this detour at all until I got on the highway and we got close to it," Rice said. "It just made me even more nervous about not making our flight."

Rice said he and his wife ended up making their scheduled flight, but he expressed concern that most people who don't know the area might panic at the prospect of a detour.

"It would be great if they put on the detour signs how much longer it would be or the fact that's it's only a couple extra miles just to reassure people," Rice said.

The new detour will be in place until the construction of the Route H interchange is complete, Columbia Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said.

MoDOT Resident Engineer Charles Sullivan said the new route will start with a left on East Angel Lane followed immediately by a left on South Hardwick Lane. This will take drivers back to Route H. 

For those coming from south of the airport, this route will be much quicker, and it will cut almost 10 miles off their trip. However, this route is longer than the original detour for  travelers coming from Columbia.

Soon, those coming from the city might not have the option to take the current detour. With construction up and down Highway 63, this intersection might become inaccessible in the near future.

Currently, the only announcement of the change in detours has been made through the MoDOT Central District's website, which Rice has never visited.

"I wouldn't think to go to the MoDOT website before I take a flight," Rice said.

What MoDOT can't do is to tell you how to take the shortest, most direct detour to the airport, via East Angel Lane. It's only 1.3 miles via East Angel to South Airport Drive, and then another half mile to the airport.

The reason MoDOT can't tell direct drivers to take this route is simple:

"We don't own this road," Sullivan said.

The road is owned by the town of Ashland, Stedem said.

Because Columbia doesn't own the road, it can't direct people with signs to take it. Once off Highway 63, this alternative route is less than half the distance the new detour will take.

But driver beware: East Angel Lane can be bumpier than a plane traveling through turbulence.

Road closures for the construction of a new diamond interchange at Route H began Aug. 23, according to previous Missourian reports. The $9.8 million project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2012.

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