Providence extension plan expands

Residents weigh in on proposed construction addressing ‘bad’ traffic
Thursday, November 30, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

From the winding path in John A. Pipes’ backyard on East Thurman Street, he can see summertime’s green trees and foliage surrounding Bear Creek. He’s changed his position­ — more than once — on whether he’s in favor of the Providence Road extension that will replace this view with concrete bridges and a wider street.

On Wednesday night in the Parkade Elementary School cafeteria, he was a proponent of the project. The Public Works Department hosted an informal meeting to allow residents to view extension plans that will cost the city $2.9 million.

About 20 residents, almost all of which were positive about the project, attended the meeting. Most saw the plans as a way to dissipate increasingly “bad” traffic.

Pipes, a former Parkade Neighborhood Association president, has known about the project since the 1990s. He said he can see the need for the extension despite how it could affect his personal backyard view.

“It’s a needed thing,” he said. “My reasons for not wanting it there are personal.”

The Public Works Department has yet to submit a final plan to the Columbia City Council. The extension, which will punch through heavily wooded property that features steep terrain, is part of the city’s master roadway plan. It is among several major road projects for which voters approved a special sales tax in November 2005.

Although Providence is a state highway, the planned extension will be maintained by the city, said chief engineer Dave Nichols.

“The first step is to get the alignment endorsed,” Nichols said before the meeting. “This meeting is going to help us do that.”

The council approved a 420-foot-long, 38-foot-wide bridge on May 15 that will extend Providence over Bear Creek as part of the extension. The council also endorsed a $99,850 contact with Harrington & Cortelyou of Kansas City. The engineering firm will design the bridge, which accounts for $1.5 million of the $2.9 million project.

However, the bridge plans could change. The Public Works Department asked Harrington and Cortelyou to come up with alternate plans in case the city decides to add additional money into the project, Nichols said.

“We’re looking at different ways to phase (the extension) in,” Nichols said.

Nichols said there are a few possibilities that include substructures and additional bridges. Final plans will be made after the initial stages of the planned extension take effect. Although the design of the extension will be planned after Wednesday’s meeting, traffic patterns and other factors will dictate the final build out, which will come after the road is widened in its first phase.

City Manager Bill Watkins predicted in May that the new intersection of Providence and Blue Ridge roads will help the area attract commercial development. The city has already bought land for a fire station at the planned crossing.

Nichols said before the Wednesday meeting that he thought Bear Creek Trail and the surrounding woods would be the biggest items discussed.

Nichols, however, was wrong about residents’ concerns. Bill Pauls, former president of the Hunter’s Gate Neighborhood Association, a soil scientist for the Department of Agriculture and Columbia Parks and Recreation Commission chairman, said that he and his colleagues will be keeping a close eye on the construction of the endorsed plan.

Nichols said the city has already taken the surrounding woods into account.

The input from the meeting will be used to help the city prepare preliminary plans that will be presented to the council for review and another public hearing.

As for Pipes, he said that although the view from his bluff might be disturbed by the construction and a new thoroughfare, he’s looking forward to a break from the daily traffic.

“We’re going to see it,” he said. “But you’ll learn to live with it like you live with everything else.”

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