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Mixed feelings shown at first I-70 workshop

Friday, August 22, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:41 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Columbia residents expressed both confidence and concern Thursday as the Missouri Department of Transportation held its first public workshop on plans to widen Interstate 70.

Department representatives and the agency’s consultants revealed four options for the I-70 project. In preliminary meetings with the Improve I-70 Advisory Group and about 100 residents, it was determined that widening the corridor would be the best response to the current traffic problems.

“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to share the concepts the engineers have developed and get feedback from the public on which concepts they like,” said Bob Brendel, a department spokesman.

Attending residents got their first look at future interchange designs from Rocheport to Route Z and four road designs for the widening and reconstruction effort, which will stretch from St. Louis to Kansas City.

The first option, basic widening, would add two lanes in each direction while maintaining existing frontage roads. The one-way frontage road option would provide additional local connections, but only in one direction. Two-way frontage roads would provide full access to properties along the frontage road but would not have access to I-70. The final design concept, collector-distributor roads, would separate “through” traffic from local traffic, but would allow adjoining properties to be accessed from the rear only.

A fifth concept, stacked sections, was first proposed by residents seeking to reduce acquisition of the needed right of way. But that option has been rejected by the project’s engineers as too expensive.

Bill Raines, a retired auto-claims adjuster, came to the meeting with concerns about traffic safety and ambulance access. He said, however, that the department is moving in the right direction.

“I think that MoDOT is doing a good representation,” Raines said. “They won’t be able to satisfy everyone though.”

David Turner was a bit more skeptical of the plans. Turner is worried about noise in his neighborhood and the preliminary designs Thursday did not ease his concern.

“I live on Texas Avenue and wanted to know how it will affect where I live,” Turner said, “but nobody knows what they’re going to do. They’re not clear enough.”

Buddy Desai, engineer for the consulting firm CH2M Hill, said the feedback from residents was largely positive.

“In general, people seemed pleased to see the different options,” Desai said. “They are absorbing a lot of information at this point.”

The Transportation Department is gathering public input on the I-70 project, which will be considered along with the road design that is best suited to the city’s traffic flow needs. A final decision is tentatively scheduled for November 2004. A blueprint of suggested changes will thenbe available for people with property along the right of way to make decisions, Brendel said.

The design is also subject to the available funding. To date, no money has been set aside for the project. The department estimates widening the length of I-70 in Missouri will cost $3 billion. Brendel said it is important to get planning out of the way so that the construction can start immediately once funding is in place.

“The question will be where can we get the most bang for our buck,” he said.

The project could take 10 to 30 years to complete, according to the department. A second public workshop is scheduled for October. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement is expected to be ready for public review next spring. Visit www.improveI70.org for more information.


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