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Council selects plan to improve Providence Road, Grasslands traffic

Monday, June 3, 2013 | 11:19 p.m. CDT; updated 10:31 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 4, 2013

*This story has been modified to correct the tally of the City Council's vote and to clarify aspects of the council's discussion.

COLUMBIA — A compromise plan for addressing traffic issues on Providence Road north of Stadium Boulevard and on streets in the Grasslands neighborhood won the approval of the Columbia City Council on Monday night.

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What did the council decide?

After an hour of public testimony, council members voted 6-1* in favor of an amended version of a plan known as Option VIII(A), which calls for:

  • Installing traffic signals on Providence Road at Turner Avenue and Burnam Road.
  • Extending the southbound right-turn lane on Providence from Stadium Boulevard north to Brandon Road.
  • Removing the traffic signal at Providence Road and Rollins Street.
  • Constructing a sidewalk on Burnam between Birch Road and Providence.

The council, at Mayor Bob McDavid's suggestion, amended Option VIII(A) to remove plans to widen Birch Road and to remove the conversion of Bingham and Brandon roads to right-in, right-out streets. McDavid noted that those were the most controversial parts of the plan among residents of the Grasslands and that the city and the Missouri Department of Transportation could revisit those ideas if necessary.

MoDOT district engineer David Silvester advised Public Works Director John Glascock in a May 23 letter that the highway department probably would require that Brandon Road be restricted to right turns in and out of the Grasslands but that left turns from Providence onto Bingham might be acceptable.

City staff estimated Option VIII(A), without the amendments, would cost an estimated $2.1 million. The project would be significantly cheaper without the widening of Birch Road.

The vote in favor of Option VIII(A) came after the council rejected a motion by First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt to approve Option IX. That plan called for most of the work included in Option VIII(A). Rather than widening Birch, however, it suggested a new feeder street between Burnam and Bingham roads that would have required the purchase and demolition of two houses along Providence Road. Option IX would have cost an estimated $3.2 million.

The council gave no serious consideration to Option X, which called only for extending the Providence Road right-turn lane north of Stadium to Brandon Road at an estimated cost of $250,000.

Maps of all three options are available in this report to the City Council from Public Works Director John Glascock.

How did we get here?

The City Council approved a version of Option IX in November as the first of a two-phase plan that would have cost a total of $6.6 million. The second phase, which was never approved by the council, would have required the purchase and demolition of six more Grasslands homes to make way for a second connector street between Bingham and Brandon roads.

The council withdrew its approval of the first phase of Option IX on April 15. Several council members cited the demolition of the homes as a reason for reconsidering. There also was concern that the city could lose federal funding for the project if the homes were found to have historic value.

What did the public have to say?

Grasslands residents and other members of the public offered about an hour of testimony during a hearing on the project.

  • Robert Price, president of the Grasslands Neighborhood Association, spoke against Option VIII(A), saying that the plan would increase traffic through the neighborhood and that there was inadequate infrastructure within the Grasslands to support the additional vehicles. Price preferred Option IX.
  • Teresa Maledy, a Grasslands resident, also supported Option IX. "Option VIII(A) increases the congestion — it is detrimental to the value and the safety of the homes on Birch. Option IX, which many, many hours went into the planning, is the best solution of the neighborhood."
  • Mark Farnen, another Grasslands resident, asked that the council hold off on making a decision on Option VIII(A) so that it could be thoroughly evaluated by the public. "We haven't had a meeting where this has been discussed by interested parties."
  • Bruce Beckett, who owns property in the Grasslands, supported Option VIII(A), saying it was important to spare residential properties from demolition.

What did council members have to say?

The council voted 6-1 in support of the amended version of Option VIII(A), with Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe dissenting.

  • Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser supported the measure, citing the needs of pedestrians and safety in the area. "Option VIII(A) does have the sidewalk and the signalized intersection there at Burnam, which I think is crucial to pedestrian safety in that entire area," she said.
  • Hoppe preferred Option IX. "We need a solution that is long-term and permanent," she said.
  • McDavid said Option VIII(A), as amended, would address the most significant problems for now and would avoid imposing the widening of Birch or the demolition of houses onto Grasslands residents.

    "Do we spend a million dollars, tear down two houses and put a road 40 feet off Providence, or do we do nothing ... and wait until MoDOT says that you have to change your patterns?" McDavid said.

What's next?

The Public Works Department will develop a plan for how to proceed with Option VIII(A) and bring a more detailed design back to the council.

What else did the council do?

The council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that called for spending more than $325,000 of the fiscal 2012 budget surplus on renovating the J.W. "Blind" Boone Home.

The city bought the home at 10 N. Fourth St. in 2000, and renovations to its exterior were completed in 2009. Once the indoor restoration and a garden in place in the home's yard, the property would be used for meetings, exhibits, music performances and educational programs for students.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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