Proposed new street design standards will once again go before the Columbia City Council at tonight’s meeting.
The council was originally set to vote on the issue May 3, but concerns over implementation costs and narrower roads led council members to table it for further discussion.
The stated purpose of the new standards is to promote the safe and economic development of the city’s streets and to facilitate the orderly layout and use of land. The proposed changes would be the first major overhaul of the standards since the 1960s.
“We want to make sure the city is running efficiently and that our streets are as safe as they need to be,” said John Glascock, the city’s chief engineer. “We also to want to make sure that our own standards are keeping up with what’s being done across the nation.”
Under the proposed changes, roads would be narrowed to slow the flow of traffic and allow for wider, more pedestrian friendly sidewalks. Tonight’s public hearing will also include discussion of Mayor Darwin Hindman’s proposed amendment requiring that sidewalks be at least 5 feet wide.
Ian Thomas, a board member of the PedNet Coalition, a group in favor of changing the street design standards, said Columbia’s current street designs provide poor transportation options for children, the elderly and disabled, and residents who don’t own cars. The long-term benefits of wider walkways outweigh the costs of the project, he said.
“In the longer term, the cost of building and maintaining streets is not sustainable,” he said. “By building and designing our cities so that people can walk and bicycle, we can improve the health of citizens. Fewer car journeys equates to a reduction in fuel use and pollution created.”
Thomas also said he sees better street design as a way to encourage community interaction and prevent crime.
At the last council meeting, developers expressed concern that certain unforeseen costs, such as storm water drainage, would be passed on to property owners. City officials also mentioned problems such as the accessibility of narrower roads to emergency and service vehicles. Residents, on the other hand, generally favored streets with lower traffic volume and wider sidewalks.
City Planning Director Roy Dudark acknowledged on Friday — his last day on the job after announcing several weeks ago that he would resign — that while narrower streets would mean lower construction costs, those savings would in some cases be lost to maintenance and drainage requirements.
“It’s not the width of the street so much as it is the drainage,” he said.
However, Dudark also noted that three developers have applied for variances for narrower streets in their subdivisions in the last two months, suggesting that cost might not be as much of an issue as previously thought.
In other action tonight, the council will:
City Manager Ray Beck said the council probably will add to the agenda a discussion of Raul Walters’ proposed transportation development district along Stadium Boulevard.
The council meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Daniel Boone Building, 701 E. Broadway. It is open to the public.