When they were only 19, newlyweds Harold and Jane Foley bought a 3½-acre homestead and built their house at the top of a rocky bluff along Creasy Springs Road, a narrow dirt lane that snaked around and down their hill and across the springs at a wooden bridge.
The curve, though menacing at times, was also a source of family fun. The Foley children liked to sled down the hill in winter, whipping around the road’s 180-degree arc, across the bridge and into snow-packed banks.
Fifty-seven years after they claimed the land, the Foleys, the road and its radical curve remain. But nearly everything else has changed. When the county dumped gravel on the road years ago, the Foleys built a bigger house to accommodate their growing family. Creasy Springs now is a major street — wide, straight and smooth as it extends north through the city, until it narrows to unimproved blacktop at the Foleys’ bluff and the city limits.
Over the years, the pavement and other improvements inside and outside the city — meant to accommodate increasing traffic from escalating development in the area — brought more cars, faster drivers and a rising number of crashes.
“There’s a lot more traffic,” Jane Foley said. “Especially during work time.”
“You have to be careful when you back out,” Harold Foley added.
The Creasy Springs curve has long been worrisome to the Foleys and others who live on or near it. Careless drivers sometimes ignore the warning signs and accelerate too fast around the curve, planting their cars and trucks in the ditch, driving them into residents’ front yards or slamming them into trees. Trees at the foot of the Foleys’ hill have been scarred by collisions. A 2005 crash on the curve proved fatal.
Finally, however, Columbia and Boone County officials are poised to straighten out the problem, and a serendipitous glitch in road planning gets some of the credit. A series of decisions by city leaders allowing a westward extension of Blue Ridge Road to connect with Creasy Springs north of the dangerous curve — instead of to the south, as originally planned — has forced the government’s hand.
The city and the county first broached the subject about eight months ago, when county commissioners learned that a series of city annexations and plat approvals for the Vanderveen subdivision had altered the alignment for Blue Ridge Road projected in the Major Roadway Plan.
The Vanderveen development features hundreds of new homes. The county and residents along Creasy Springs worry that drivers from those homes will have to negotiate the dangerous curve multiple times every day, or cut through their neighborhoods to avoid it if a connection is made.
City officials have said the new alignment for Blue Ridge was necessary to avoid rough terrain, but they agree that a solution for the curve must be found.
The county took an important step Tuesday when commissioners signed an agreement with the city to share the expense of studying the best way to eliminate the curve and how much it will cost. The study will become part of a larger traffic survey in the area.
The agreement will employ Olsson Associates of Overland Park, Kan., to conduct a study of the curve and nearby intersections, including the future connection with Blue Ridge.
The work is to be completed this year, and the cost is not to exceed $38,835.
The Foleys have anticipated for years that something would have to be done about their road.
“We knew it was bound to happen due to development,” Jane Foley said.
Residents of the Prairie Hills subdivision, an enclave of unincorporated land nearly surrounded by the city, helped call attention to the road-planning problems in May. The neighborhood’s cul-de-sacs empty onto the curve.
Folks who live there are happy that something will apparently be done.
“I’m very glad that the county is cooperating with the city,” Prairie Hills resident Nancy Keivit said.
The engineers’ biggest challenge is finding an acceptable grade and alignment, Boone County Public Works Director David Mink said.
Any new road will have to overcome the steep incline of the Foleys’ hill, which was the reason for the dangerous curve to begin with.
And there are obvious right-of-way issues.
The Foleys understand that the ideal solution might require that the road cross their land.That could mean losing their first home, which stands near the edge of their property and is rented to another family.
They have yet to hear from any government officials about plans for the road, but they stand willing to work toward a solution.
“We’ve always shared what we have,” Jane Foley said. “We want what’s best for everybody.”