COLUMBIA—If city streets were parts of an amusement park, Proctor Drive might be an aging roller coaster.
The road begins innocently enough, just a turn off of Creasy Springs Road, but then you begin chugging uphill, following muddy tracks down the middle of the street because of its narrowness and crumbling edges.
The pavement itself undulates from warping and potholes. As you reach the top of one hill, you swerve all the way left to avoid a crater before plunging downhill and back up once again on the uneven terrain.
A passing car forces another to linger near an uneven edge and deep ditch, right before taking one last sharp curve that finally leads you to a wide and smooth road.
Yet despite the potholes, cracks and crumbling, Proctor Drive is not scheduled for improvement projects by the city of Columbia.
The portion of Proctor Drive east of Creasy Springs Road and west of Proctor Park is an unimproved residential street that hosts several homes, Hendren Salvage and, most recently, Bear Creek Village, a 59-home subdivision being developed by Herigon Construction.
Jim McKinnon, superintendent of street maintenance for Columbia, said the problems with Proctor Drive are simple to explain.
“It was never built to city standards to begin with,” McKinnon said. “It’s got heavy traffic because of the junkyard and also now the subdivision,” he said. The volume and weight of the road’s traffic are what have caused the potholes and warping.
Carolyn Hendren sees the problem a little differently.
Hendren has lived on Proctor Drive since 1995. Her husband, Billy Hendren, and their family run Hendren Salvage, down the street. Her complaints about the condition of her street come down to one thing.
“My biggest complaint is from the subdivision across the street,” Hendren said. Before its construction began, “it was rarely traveled. It was fine for the number of people who live on this road.”
Hendren estimated that traffic has increased “150 percent” since Bear Creek Village began construction, and Proctor Drive, as she sees it, isn’t built to withstand it all.
“This road is just not wide enough,” she said.
When driving home from work one evening, she had to swerve into the other side of the street to avoid a sizeable pothole in the road while going uphill. Coming up the opposite side of the hill, and out of her sight, was another car. The two nearly hit head-on as she avoided the pothole.
It’s incidents like that that make Hendren worry about the street’s danger and lack of visibility.
“The road needs to be widened, and the hills need to be straightened out,” she said. “There’s nothing we can do about that bad curve, but if the road were widened and the hills fixed, then you’d be able to see.”
Jennifer Toohey, a real estate agent selling the homes in Bear Creek Village, said that she’s heard no complaints from home buyers about the street. On the contrary, Toohey said sales have exceeded her expectations. More than half have been sold, and some of those people have already moved in, but how many of those people are, or will be, using Proctor Drive is uncertain.
“There are a couple of ways to get into the neighborhood, so they could use a different entrance, but it would be nice to see the road improved in the future,” Toohey said.
Although she takes Proctor into the neighborhood, an alternate route can be taken through the adjacent Parkade North neighborhood.
It is doubtful that Proctor Drive will see improvements in the near future. Columbia Public Works has no projects scheduled for the road at this time, said department spokeswoman Jill Stedem.
The city’s 2008 capital improvement plan also includes no projects for Proctor, but it does propose a long-term sidewalk project along the street to connect Bear Creek Village to Bear Creek Drive.
For now, McKinnon said, the street will be maintained as it usually is.
“We’ll just keep patching it,” he said.
Still, Hendren hopes that something will happen to make the road safer.
“We’ve been lucky, and we haven’t had a lot of accidents, but they’re going to happen,” she said.