Bicyclists, walkers and runners on the MKT Trail can look forward to easier access to downtown.
The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department has won a $75,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to help pay the cost of running the trail through box culverts beneath Providence and Stewart roads.
“The intent is to provide a safer access into the downtown for trail users,” said Steve Saitta, superintendent of parks development for the city. “It’s something the city has been wanting to do for some time.”
The tunnels, which will be similar to those that take the trail under Stadium, Forum and Scott boulevards, have been planned for years. A pair of previous requests for federal grants, however, were turned down.
Carrie Gartner, executive director of the Downtown Columbia Associations, agrees the trail’s intersection with Providence can be difficult for bicyclists. An avid trail user, she said the project is a great idea. Bicyclists and walkers will be able to follow the trail nonstop into downtown, where the trail actually ends.
“This will make people realize the MKT Trail doesn’t stop at Providence,” Gartner said.
The estimated total cost of the project is $150,507; the city will pay half that amount.
Construction will begin in spring 2004 if MU officials agree to allow work on campus property at the southeast corner of Providence Road and Elm Street. Phil Shocklee, associate director of Campus Facilities, said administrators and legal staff are reviewing the request.
Approval from the Missouri Department of Transportation will also be necessary before construction gets under way.
Saitta hopes construction will be done by the end of next summer. “We expect a three- to four-month period,” he said.
Future trail improvements call for additional tunnels beneath Elm and Locust streets. Saitta said those tunnels, which are planned as part of the second phase of development at Flat Branch Park, are a couple of years down the road.
Saitta hopes a safer trail route will bring more activity downtown.
Jeannie Perry and sister-in-law Jean Perry regularly walk the MKT Trail. They believe the tunnels will make downtown more accessible to trail users.
“It’ll be nice,” Jeannie Perry said. “We could walk or ride our bikes downtown.”