COLUMBIA — Extra chairs were brought in Tuesday night to an already full room for a community meeting about the traffic problems on Forum Boulevard.
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony thanked the large crowd for coming to discuss the proposed improvement project.
Anthony began the meeting by taking the right-in, right-out plan, which would prohibit left turns at certain areas of Forum, “off the table.” This was met by a loud, collective cheer.
“I think we’re all very happy that they are going to approach it from a different standpoint,” Nancy Sandison said.
Scott Bitterman, supervising engineer of traffic for Columbia Public Works, outlined a two-phase improvement project.
According to the meeting's agenda, Columbia City Council has prioritized phase one of the improvement project and plans to begin construction in 2012. The cost of this phase is estimated at $200,000.
Phase one will add a lane on Forum from Katy Lane to the bridge at Hinkson Creek, making room for left-turn lanes at Victoria Park Driveway and the MKT Driveway.
Phase two of the improvement project includes: a pedestrian path from Katy Lane to Wilson’s Total Fitness driveway, a pedestrian bridge over Hinkson Creek, a left-turn lane at Wilson’s Total Fitness driveway, a pedestrian crosswalk at Wilson’s Total Fitness driveway and pavement marking modifications.
The cost for construction of phase two is estimated at $850,000. Phase two would need to be approved by the council at a public hearing at a later date, according to the meeting's agenda.
After the improvement project presentation, the floor was opened for questions and comments from local residents. While there was little agreement on how to improve traffic flow on Forum, residents did agree something should be done.
Joan Casey, a local resident and frequent biker, walker and jogger, asked that the pedestrian path continue up the hill to Crestwood Lane, rather than stopping at Wilson's Total Fitness.
“I’m a little bit afraid to ride a bike sometimes because if I hit a rock or something, I might fall off, and I’d be right in traffic," Casey said.
There was also collective concern about the current speed limit at 45 mph in front of Wilson's Total Fitness.
“The speed is too high,” Casey said. “I think it could be lowered to 35, and we’d still get where we’re going, and it would be a lot safer.”
There was also mention of stop signs, roundabouts and caution signs. Anyone with additional comments was encouraged to fill out a citizen comment form and leave contact information so the council could make an informed decision.
“I think there are some real issues, so I hope they were listening to the people here tonight, and I guess we’ll see what happens," Sandison said. “My husband says, ‘Well, it’s five years down the road – let's not worry about it,’ so I’ll try not to.”