Study: I-70 options hamper businesses

Friday, February 27, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:09 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

CorrectionA story on Page 10A Friday about the potential impact of a wider Interstate 70 through Columbia incorrectly identified the source of the report. The Economic Development Research Group prepared the report. CH2M Hill is working with the Missouri Department of Transportation to develop strategies for widening the highway through Columbia.

Plans to widen Interstate 70 to eight lanes through Columbia could cause many businesses to relocate and those that stay to lose significant numbers of customers, according to a consultant’s study.

The report by CH2MHill, a consulting company, described the potential impact of the I-70 project on Columbia businesses.

The news wasn’t good. The consultant cited six major issues, none of which bode well for businesses that are nearby or draw customers from I-70.

The report was reviewed Thursday by the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization’s Coordinating Committee.

The Missouri Department of Transportation for months has been studying how to widen the interstate, not only through Columbia but also statewide. The project would cost nearly $3 billion and take 10 to 30 years to complete. Nevertheless, CH2MHill said in its report, planners must begin to prepare for the impact now.

Concerns outlined in the report are:

No. 1 — Impaired visibility for businesses along I-70 frontage roads.

The report says construction of the wider highway will force many businesses within the new road’s right of way to relocate. Others along interstate frontage roads might also lose business because of a loss of visibility.

“What can be done to avoid the issue?” the report asks. “Probably little.” Better signs are the most promising way to mitigate the problem.

No. 2 — A trade-off with frontage road options.

While one-way frontage roads preserve property, they allow less access to businesses than two-way frontage roads would, CH2MHill says. The consultants say the best way to deal with this problem would be to develop other access points via local streets.

No. 3 — Modifications at interchanges may cause motorists to bypass established businesses.

Businesses along the existing U.S. 63 connector face the loss of customers as the flow of traffic through the roadway is greatly reduced.

What can the city do to avoid this problem? “Probably nothing,” the report says, recommending the city encourage industry and other businesses that do not rely on interstate traffic to develop in the area.

No. 4 — Partial interchange improvements might not address key commercial traffic movements.

The report says commercial truck traffic from Route B to St. Louis and freight traffic from Kansas City to the new Wal-Mart planned at Fairview Road and Broadway might eventually overload even improved interchanges at U.S. 63 and Stadium Boulevard, respectively.

A future new interchange at Scott Boulevard, which would be farther west than proposed ramps leading to and from an extended Fairview Road, might be a better alternative on the west side, the consultant says.

No. 5 — Proposed new ramps are long, and few and far between.

New diamond interchanges, as designed, would require travelers to exit as much as a mile in advance of their destination. That could force drivers to backtrack to businesses that aren’t immediately next to the interstate. CH2MHill proposes either shorter ramps or signs at the beginning of exits to direct traffic to business locations.

No. 6 — The proposed improvements inhibit westbound travelers’ access to Business Loop 70 East.

CH2MHill suggests planners talk with the state about alternatives for funneling traffic to the business loop, limit the number of businesses in the area that rely on interstate traffic and erect signs that help travelers find their way to commercial destinations.

The report is available to the public at the Columbia’s Planning and Development Department on the second floor of the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway.

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