Several prominent Columbia businessmen were all smiles Monday night after the City Council moved to go ahead with the Gans Road interchange project.
Construction on the new diamond interchange at Gans Road and U.S. 63 is expected to begin this spring, pending approval of the final plans and funds by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Department of Transportation District 5 engineer Roger Schwartze said the Transportation Department is expected to have its own public hearing for the project on March 15 at the Lenoir Center from 4 to 7 p.m. At that time, design plans for the interchange will be presented. At the meeting, council members seemed excited about the development, but Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku asked how the interchange could be a symbol of Columbia as drivers come in from the southeast.
In response, Schwartze touted the developers’ plans for landscaping on the interchange. Some potential enhancements, he said, could include water features, lighting and a sculptured fence. Even with all of the enhancements, Schwartze said that safety on the interchange is still a top priority and promised a pipeline on both sides of the road.
“I can tell you, if they move forward with this, it’ll be the greatest interchange in the state of Missouri,” Schwartze said.
City Manager Bill Watkins stressed the importance of beginning construction on the project so the area will be prepared for the opening of ABC Labs in early 2008.
Scott Ward, vice president for relationship management and process improvements at ABC Labs, talked about the importance of the interchange for his company’s new facility, which began construction last December. Ward said he expects the building to employ 250 people and attract researchers from all over the nation when it opens early next year.
John Gardner, vice president of Discovery Ridge, and Thomas Payne, dean of agriculture at MU, emphasized Discovery Ridge’s commitment to excellence in their research as well as taking care of the environment.
Jay Lindner, vice president of Forum Development Group, was also present at the hearing. His company recently purchased 220 acres of the former Philips tract and is currently working on designing the area in a way that he said will be beneficial to both the economy and the environment.
If the Transportation Department approves the project, it is expected to be completed in about 18 months.
In related actions, the council voted unanimously to reimburse the University of Missouri System Board of Curators for up to $90,000 relating to construction of stormwater drainage on Lenoir Street, which is going to be relocated as the first part of the project.