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Plan would make walking, biking on Broadway safer

Sidewalks and bike lanes would be added.
Thursday, May 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:58 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

It cuts through the heart of the city. And if all goes according to plan, Broadway, the artery of downtown, has some changes coming.

A quaint, friendly street frequented by bicyclists, joggers and parents with strollers; a happy retreat from the hustled traffic in other parts of the city — this is the concept plan developed by the Broadway Corridor Steering Committee, which is taking steps toward making that image come alive.

The plan calls for beautifying the area while simultaneously alleviating problems in the road’s accessibility and safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

“The Broadway of the future... would be very inviting to walk on,” said Christy Welliver, who represents the city’s disabilities commission on the committee. The plan calls for lower lighting, bicycle lanes, sidewalks and landscaping, which Welliver said will make the street more welcoming to pedestrians.

Formed by a City Council directive in 2002, the committee, with the help of the city planning department, has diagnosed the 6.4-mile corridor with numerous problems that impede safe travel, including a lack of signals, crosswalks, proper stormwater drainage and curbs. It has also developed a plan for potential improvements.

“Broadway is the main east-west corridor through town,” said City Planner Mitch Skov. “It’s the street that goes places. It makes the connections to a lot of places you can’t go if you just take the side streets. And as a result, it’s important to have that corridor be accommodating for people walking and riding bicycles.”

The committee’s first step was to take a stroll through the corridor. City Planner John Fleck said members of the committee began their research with the intent to find better ways for pedestrian and bicycle travel but realized other improvements were necessary.

“As we walked the corridor, we starting noticing other things along the way,” he said. Sculptures, parks and gardens indicated to the committee that the street was special. “It was obvious that Broadway had some cultural or community significance other than just a street through town.”

Welliver agreed. “You’ve got a small-town flavor right there,” she said, adding that the committee made a point to preserve the ambiance of Broadway while making it safer.

Both Welliver and Fleck stressed that the plan does not call for widening the street in residential neighborhoods. Instead, it recommends narrowing the roadway to provide bike lanes. The committee believes smaller lanes will slow traffic to make the road safer for residents and passersby.

“It serves a lot of people, and it can serve a lot better,” said Chip Cooper of PedNet Coalition.

The committee met Wednesday to discuss the results of an open house held April 27. The public event showcased the study’s results and used multiple graphics to illustrate proposed changes along the corridor. Skov said the committee received both positive and negative feedback at the open house, but few recommendations were made regarding changes to the plan.

One of the biggest concerns raised at the April open house came from residents of West Broadway who fear losing property to new sidewalks. However, committee members said most property would only have to add one foot of sidewalk to extend to six feet. Areas without sidewalks are not up to the 5-foot standard as is, and although those residents will lose 6 feet of property to the new sidewalks, committee members said adding the walkways would not have detrimental effects on property.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the comments are not necessarily focused on thinking about the community as a whole,” said Julia Grus, who represents the Parks and Recreation Commission.

City Planning Director Roy Dudark added that, because the projects could take decades to complete, many of the people living in this area will not be here to see the changes, and it is important for citizens to consider the long-term objectives of the project.

The committee will present its findings to the City Council in June. If approved, the plan will serve as a blueprint for further improvement projects. Individual projects would still need to be drafted and approved by the council, but would be developed in accordance with the Broadway Corridor plan. Projects would be done as opportunities arise and in conjunction with other improvements; for instance, replacing a sidewalk would come with the completion of a sewer project.

Fleck said he hopes to have information regarding the proposed changes available through the city’s Web site by next week. The page will include interactive Web mapping, complete with aerial and ground photos. To view these graphics, visit www.gocolumbiamo.com.


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