Traffic problems on Route WW seem to be mounting, and some Boone County officials believe they are destined to get worse.
That’s why they want to take the lead on a study of traffic patterns along the highway, which bisects a corridor that’s increasingly ripe for development.
“Traffic is bad, and the problem is only going to be compounded with the addition of 1,200-plus homes,” Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said, referring to two developments planned just east of Columbia.
Prime Development already has proposed a subdivision of 250 homes, 70 townhouses and accompanying commercial development on 200 acres immediately east of El Chaparral. And others report that Billy Sapp is contemplating a 940-home subdivision farther east of town. Sapp, however, has submitted no formal plans for that project.
County Commissioners believe a Route WW traffic study would cost around $100,000, and they hope to share the cost with developers, the city of Columbia and the state. They agreed the study should focus on that section of the highway that runs between U.S. 63 and Range Line Road, a distance of several miles.
County regulations require that individual developers conduct their own traffic studies when proposing new projects, but Planning and Building Director Stan Shawver said a combined study would be better in this case because of the projects’ proximity to each other.
“Improvements one developer may provide won’t give complete relief along WW,” Shawver said. “The developers would be better served if they put money toward a joint traffic study.”
Commissioners suggested the Planning and Building Department continue researching the scope of and funding for the proposed study.
Eventual recommendations, Shawver said, could include widening or adding stoplights to Route WW, which is a curvy, two-lane blacktop road that in many places lacks fully developed shoulders. The county hopes the study might be done within six months, Elkin said.
During an October public hearing on Prime Development’s rezoning request, area residents mentioned several times that Route WW is dangerous and that more traffic would exacerbate the problem.
Route WW has long been recognized as a dangerous road. Ken Hines, assistant chief of the Boone County Fire District, said the highway is among the worst in the county.
“It is in the top five roads with serious crashes that we respond to because of the large volume of traffic,” he said.
Melissa Howland, a Stephens College student, died in a head-on collision Oct. 30 when she was driving west on Route WW. The highway was also the scene of an accident Thursday morning, though no one was injured.