COLUMBIA — For anyone who’s ever hopped on U.S. 63 from eastbound Interstate 70 during rush hour, it's an expected game of bumper cars with drivers exiting from Business Loop 70 East.
It's a give and take that’s about to end this year.
Plans are in place to build a new road that extends Conley Road from the north end of Broadway Marketplace to East Boulevard and Business Loop 70 East.
"A safety situation" and property swaps
The Missouri Department of Transportation has identified the area around I-70, U.S. 63 and the east end of the Business Loop as "a safety situation that we want to rectify," said Michael Schupp, MoDOT's area engineer for Boone County.
The new connection will help funnel traffic along Conley Road, Schupp said. "It's an improvement to the area, and it'll help move traffic more efficiently along I-70 at the U.S. 63 exit."
Part of the new connection will go through about 2.3 acres in the northeast portion of the Columbia Country Club golf course, which required negotiations with the club to sacrifice and modify part of their course.
The district plans to swap four acres that were the former site of a state maintenance operation with the country club to provide land for the reconfiguration of the golf course.
“We will have to shut down nine holes of our 18-hole golf course, and then those nine holes will be reconstructed,” country club President Jean Leonatti said.
But funding has been an issue.
"Government organizations don't have the money to build it, the city probably didn't have the money to build it and we didn't have the money to build it," Schupp said.
The new road, which includes a bridge across Hinkson Creek, will be financed by the Conley Road Transportation Development District. The district was formed in 2005 and levies a half-percent sales tax on shoppers at the Broadway Marketplace, to pay for projects. This extension has been a goal of transportation planners for more than a decade.
Attorney Robert Hollis, who represents the transportation district, said the tax has not increased since it was set. While there are no plans at this time to increase the sales tax, he said, that's a possibility in the future.
In addition to building a new road and bridge, the district will also have to compensate the country club for damages to the golf course as well as its reconfiguration.
Attorney Craig Van Matre also represents the transportation ditsrict. He said, “It’s going to be the actual cost of restoring the golf course. It’ll be a big number.”
Hollis said the cost of the entire project isn't known. "I have heard estimates between $10 million and $25 million," he said.
An independent auditor’s report on the transportation development district for 2010 — the most recent figures available — showed sales tax revenue at $1.05 million, he said.
Timeline for completion and community response
Once the new road is finished, MoDOT plans to remove the eastbound on-ramp from the Business Loop and close off access to I-70.
Van Matre said the entire project of building the new road, adding a bridge and a new stoplight, plus reconfiguration of the golf course could take two to three years.
The connection will be built in phases Schupp said. Van Matre said the first phase will start in July.
More than 20 people on Feb. 2 attended the fourth and final open house at the country club to discuss the proposal and see an illustration of the reconfigured golf course.
The most recent open house “was just one last attempt to kind of maybe catch people who weren’t affiliated with a neighborhood” and bring the project to their attention, Leonatti said.
Howard Eiffert, a resident of Columbia for 45 years who lives beside the 10th hole of the course, said he thinks "everybody’s pretty well satisfied.”
Christine Doerr, who lives on the south side of the golf course, expressed her reservations about the project.
Among her concerns was the cutting down of trees, which currently serve to block some of the noise from the nearby highway.