COLUMBIA — Each weekday morning, Martin Wills and his 10-year-old son, Sam, begin their daily trek to Fairview Elementary School. It's a journey the pair has made since Sam was a student in kindergarten.
"We have a sidewalk for most of the journey," Wills said. "And it’s really nice to have a sidewalk. It encourages people to walk to school."
Wills lives in a neighborhood south of Fairview Elementary School where paved walkways are a regular sight. But just north of the school, the sidewalk on the west side of Fairview Road ends abruptly, and children and their parents must cross the street with the help of a crossing guard.
Beginning next spring, however, the area will look very different. That's because the city plans to build more sidewalks in the neighborhood and add a roundabout at Fairview and Rollins roads. The Columbia City Council authorized the projects at its Aug. 20 meeting.
The initiative includes three basic components:
- A sidewalk on the west side of Fairview Road extending from Fairview Elementary School to north of Rollins Road.
- A sidewalk on the south side of Rollins Road extending from Fairview Road to Cambridge Drive.
- The single-lane roundabout at Fairview and Rollins.
The $500,000 project will be funded by Columbia's quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax, according to a report to the council from the city's Public Works Department.
Kelsey Morris, assistant principal of Fairview Elementary School, said he likes the construction plans.
"I think the way it is being proposed is great," he said. "Anything that will assist our community patrons in getting to and from school safely is always a good idea."
As a thoroughfare, Fairview Road carries a moderate level of traffic, Morris said. "Generally, it’s a pretty steady flow."
A traffic report filed in January by the Columbia Public Works Department found it was unnecessary to install a traffic light at the Fairview-Rollins intersection. It recommended the mini-roundabout as a means of improving traffic flow and reducing fuel consumption.
According to the report, the roundabout will include several features designed to increase safety for pedestrians, particularly young children who might be intimidated by an intersection with a lot of traffic.
Each of the four crosswalks will be several feet from the intersection and will feature "safety islands," enabling pedestrians to cross the street one lane at a time.
But Wills said the ordinance has more than safety to offer Fairview Elementary students; it also will give them the opportunity to live a healthier lifestyle.
"People need to keep moving for health reasons," Wills said. "The average American takes 5,000 steps a day, when they should be taking 10,000 steps."
Wills hopes more families will be motivated to walk to school when the initiative goes into effect.
"I think it's great," he said. "I fully support it."
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.