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I-70 widening project prompts concerns

Neighborhoods and busi-nesses will be affected.
Friday, September 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:48 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Along Interstate 70 through Columbia are numerous businesses, parks and neighborhoods. Now that the widening of I-70 in the Columbia corridor is being discussed, people are wondering how those places will be affected.

On Thursday, residents and city officials attended a public meeting at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center held by the Improve I-70 Advisory Group. The advisory group is responsible for gathering public input on the different approaches that could be used to widen the interstate.

Craig Adams, who lives in the Parkade neighborhood, attended the meeting to learn more details about the project.

“My house runs right along the existing corridor,” Adams said.

Along with residential property, the proposed expansion will affect businesses, parks, churches and ecological interests.

The project is still in the development stage and engineers have yet to decide how they plan to widen the interstate.

Five concepts are being discussed. CH2M Hill, a St. Louis consulting firm, is conducting an environmental impact study that rates each concept based on how it will affect different aspects of the community.

CH2M representatives said the final approach will likely use several different concepts along the 18-mile stretch of road.

“We want to minimize the amount of economic damage or disruption in terms of losses of business and jobs,” said Buddy Desai, a civil engineer with CH2M.

Skip Elkin, Boone County commissioner for the northern district, said the evaluations provided by CH2M need to include how the construction project will affect local businesses. Elkin said if access tobusinesses will be cut off, those locations need to know in advance.

“Small businesses can’t afford a 50-percent reduction in business for two years,” Elkin said. “They’ll have to close their doors.”

Desai said this would not be a problem.

“We will provide access to every property,” he said. “We’re not going to leave anybody landlocked.”

On Thursday, CH2M representatives presented maps that broke down the I-70 area into various demographics, including business concentration, property tax information, parks, neighborhoods and race and poverty statistics. The information will be used to ensure that specific groups are not harmed disproportionately by the project, the representatives said.

Ecological effects also are being taken into consideration, such as how the different concepts would impact the four major watersheds in the area.

The five concepts beingconsidered include basic widening, one-way and two-way frontage roads, collector-distributor and a stackage system.”They all add capacity to the existing I-70,” Desai said. “The difference lies outside of the highway.”

The main concerns for areas outside the highway are interchanges, access and the separation of local and through traffic.

Two-way frontage roads were the most popular with the public at the August workshop. Desai said one of the advantages to this system is the good highway access it provides. CH2M already has recommended to the Missouri Department of Transportation that a stackage system not be considered, he said.

CH2M will periodically present its evaluations to the advisory group. The next public meeting on the project is scheduled for Oct. 23. More information is available online at www.improveI70.org.


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