Columbia residents took advantage of a small but critical window of opportunity Tuesday to track the progress of and raise concerns about a group working to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety along Broadway.
The Broadway Corridor Steering Committee held an open house Tuesday night to display photos and graphics illustrating trouble spots along the roadway, along with a “conceptual plan” aimed at resolving them.
Residents were invited to view the findings and present their own ideas about problem areas, as well as possible solutions.
Dozens turned out to see where the project stood. While the plan outlined numerous strategies for improving safety and enhancing visual appeal throughout the 6.4-mile corridor, concerns about constructing new sidewalks along the south side of West Broadway became the theme for the evening.
“There is no need for a sidewalk on that side,” said Mitch Moore, who lives on the street. “There’s a sidewalk on the north side that’s barely used.”
He added the city would be better off encouraging residents to move recreation to other, safer streets.
“I don’t think we want to be known as the concrete capital of the Midwest,” he said, “and I don’t want them to use my yard to create their image of these big, wide pavements.”
Blaise Brazos, also a West Broadway resident, said he’s interested in seeing the street beautified and better maintenance for current sidewalks, but he doesn’t agree with the city’s plan to add sidewalks in his neighborhood.
“What concerns me is this issue of fairness,” he said. “If this is going to be a walkable, bikeable, pedestrian-friendly community, what are we going to do for something besides Broadway? I’d really like to hear how that plan fits into the rest of the community.
“When one group of people will degrade another person’s neighborhood in order to convenience themselves, it’s over.” The issue of private property versus public use was echoed throughout the conversation, although not everyone shared the same sentiments.
“It’s an arterial street,” said Susan Roberts, a supporter of the project.
She said that she has long been concerned about the safety of West Broadway and that the public good weighs the heaviest in the argument.
Christy Welliver, who represents the city disabilities commission and is a co-founder of PedNet, said the concerns of some residents are unwarranted.
“It’s just making use of what pavement is there already, making it work for all of us,” she said. “There should be an east-west corridor, a way to go from one end of town to another safely.”
Tuesday’s event was the result of nearly two years of study.
To properly diagnose problems throughout the corridor, which extends from Scott Boulevard through downtown and east of the U.S. 63 interchange to the American Legion, the committee divided the road into eight sections to be individually examined according to location and usage.
Over the last year and a half, stakeholders meetings were held at the Columbia Public Library to get feedback from residents and property owners from each of these areas.
Brazos said he thought the consensus at these meetings was that the residents were opposed to the committee’s plan.
Displays at Tuesday’s open house combined the eight sections into four larger segments and gave residents the opportunity to see complete results of the study thus far.
The report suggested installing pedestrian signals, crosswalks and signal actuators to trigger stoplights at intersections, restriping travel lanes in some areas to provide additional width for a shared lane or a striped bike lane, removal and relocation of parking and relocation of signs that encroach sidewalks.
City Planning Director Roy Dudark said the purpose of the plan was to give residents a clearer idea of where the city is headed with the corridor project. By providing an overall picture, he said, it is easier to see how small projects fit within the plan.
If approved, the report would serve as a guide for future improvements. Each individual project would still have to be approved by the City Council but would probably fall in accordance with the plan.
The five-member committee was formed through a City Council directive in 2002 that requested a report about conditions along Broadway.
Following last night’s open house, the committee will decide what issues with the plan need to be addressed in order to present the report to the City Council in June.