Adam Baker pokes his father Ken in the leg with the hopes of distracting him from the discussion at hand. This is not 7-year-old Adam's first public meeting. In fact, the second-grader at Paxton Keeley Elementary School is pretty tired of listening to grownups argue about a proposed Wal-Mart development on West Broadway.
"That's my main draw to come here," said Ken Baker, a member of Community First, an organization opposed to the Wal-Mart development because of fears of increased traffic.
Baker and his son were among the more than three dozen people at the Activity and Recreation Center on Wednesday night to listen to representatives from MoDOT talk about the Interstate 70 expansion. Some were property owners worried about how road developments would affect their land. Some were curious about the changes to I-70 and how they were going to affect their daily commutes. And some were West Broadway residents worried about the expansion of Fairview Road north to I-70.
The meeting was organized by Community First and David Evans of the Park De Ville Neighborhood Association. Signs of opposition to the Wal-Mart development were everywhere. Some people wore T-shirts that read "No Wal-Mart on West Broadway." Others tried to talk about Wal-Mart.
But MoDot's representatives were, for the most part, successful in steering the discussion toward the inevitability of growth in the area.
"Our real goal is for people to understand the process. Even if they don't agree, they can understand the process and the rationale," said Bob Brendel, MoDOT's outreach coordinator for project development. "Typically what we've found when we've held these meetings in Columbia is that people understand that the interstate needs to be improved."
The evening began with one-on-one discussions between MoDOT and local residents. Five tables had been pushed together to accommodate giant aerial-photo maps of I-70 between Midway and Lake of the Woods exits. Other tables held more detailed maps of what was planned for each interchange. Jerry Mugg, project manager for HNTB, a consulting firm working on the I-70 project, then gave a brief introduction to plans for I-70 in Columbia. That was followed by a question-and-answer session.
"The plan is to see what people are thinking," said Jay Bestgen, part of the department's study team, as he presided over a section of the map to answer questions.
" 'What's going to affect me personally' is typically what people come to meetings for," said Brendel, who noted that, Wal-Mart or no Wal-Mart, traffic on Fairview near West Broadway is going to increase.
Mugg said he was pleased with the meeting and that MoDOT had received some good comments from those who attended.
"I think we all have a better understanding of the issue as it pertains to I-70 and the local initiatives," he said