City looks at room for all on walkways

The proposal includes widening sidewalks.
Thursday, December 4, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:31 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

While the debate continues, the Street Standards Planning Group has moved a little closer to resolving its proposal to revamp Columbia’s standards for streets.

The proposal was initiated more than a year ago by the PedNet Coalition, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission and similar groups eager to make Columbia’s streets more accessible to bicycles, pedestrians and wheelchairs.

The planning group is charged with hammering out new street designs and standards agreeable to city departments, developers and community groups including PedNet and the SmartGrowth Coalition.

The debate concerned proposed changes to cul-de-sac length and sidewalk width. Opinion was split on increasing sidewalk width from 5 to 6 feet on mid- to high-volume streets.

Developers pointed out the cost of the additional foot of cement in a sidewalk, while Steve Saitta from the Parks and Recreation department noted how fast overgrowth from grasses can overtake a full foot on a sidewalk.

Christy Welliver from the Disabilities Commission said she has difficulties with her motorized scooter on limited sidewalk space. Chip Cooper, representing the PedNet Coalition, said he envisions a Columbia that will better support a multi-modal transportation network.

“What we are looking to do is reallocate, in a very minuscule dimension, a few feet here and there to not just allow her (Welliver) to get from one place to the other, but to actually make it comfortable, and not just allow people to ride their bikes, but to encourage them to ride their bikes,” he said.

Don Stamper, representing the newly organized Central Missouri Development Council, agreed in part.

“I think there’s merit in what’s been come up with, in the sense of having adequate facilities for pedestrians,” he said. “Most communities as we see them and a lot of quality developments are doing that. It’s a question of how far we go. It’s a question of how much is more than enough.”

The city Planning and Development Department is estimating costs for the proposed changes. The cost is of particular concern to developers who worry that they, not the city, often carry the financial burden for building streets.

“Developers are building those streets and they’re passing the cost onto consumers. Prices of lots are going up, prices of homes are going up,” said Bob Walters of the Environment and Energy Commission, who is a member of the street planning group and a developer.

The final report will be reviewed by the planning commission and, ultimately, by the Columbia City Council.

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