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Divided over Broadway

To neighbors, median most controversial part of consultants’ proposal
Friday, August 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Traffic engineers consulting for the City Council have suggested a roundabout to help traffic flow smoothly at this intersection of West Broadway and Clinkscales Road. Neighbors are concerned about what the plan’s proposals would do to traffic on the side streets. City Manager Bill Watkins says the city plans to hold public forums on the proposal in September.

COLUMBIA-Driving along West Broadway might get a little loopy if a consulting firm’s recommendations for medians, center left-turn lanes and a roundabout at the intersection with Clinkscales Road are adopted.

Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier Traffic and Transportation Engineers of St. Louis conducted the West Broadway Corridor study for the Columbia City Council and presented its suggestions during a July 12 council work session.

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The council hired the firm to get baseline traffic data and provide concrete guidance as the debate continues over whether the street should be widened between Garth Avenue and West Boulevard and whether modifications should be made elsewhere.

At issue is whether the street can be modified to handle increasing traffic and retain its use as a major entrance to downtown while preserving the character of historic West Broadway. The study area included the entire corridor between Garth and Fairview avenues.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade, whose jurisdiction includes the south side of West Broadway, gave the report rave reviews.

“I think the report is excellent,” he said. “It gives us a quality database. (They) did a superb job in offering different designs.”

One major component of the consultants’ strategy is a roundabout at West Broadway and Clinkscales Road. As proposed, the roundabout would feature two approach lanes from the west, which the consultants said would boost the intersection’s capacity to adequate levels through at least 2030.

“A roundabout at this location would be ideal in that it would serve as a gateway signifying the transition in and out of the residential area to the east,” the firm wrote in its report.

The firm also considered roundabouts at Broadway’s intersections with Garth Avenue and West Boulevard but decided that wasn’t a good idea because of the high amount of pedestrian activity and anticipated traffic increases at those crossings.

Another key feature of the plan is a 10-foot median dividing the roadway and the installation of center left-turn lanes to improve traffic flow. According to the consultants’ report, eliminating turns from the through lanes can boost traffic capacity by 30 percent.

Recognizing that dedicated eastbound and westbound lanes would divert more cars to nearby side streets, the engineers proposed three roundabouts on Ash Street: at Garth Avenue, West Boulevard and Clinkscales Road.

These roundabouts would help alleviate traffic during peak morning and evening hours, the consultants said, and might also prove useful for Broadway residents who no longer would be able to make left turns directly into their driveways.

Finally, the plan proposes 6-foot-wide sidewalks on each side of Broadway, as well as a 6-foot-wide bike lane as part of the street. The engineers pointed out that the bike lanes would serve a dual purpose, allowing room for stalled vehicles or snow removal.

The engineers’ plan differs significantly from ideas proposed by West Broadway residents last year. Their conceptual plan included new curbs and gutters, buried utility lines, a 5-foot sidewalk on the south side of the street and an 8-foot pedway on the north that would feature decorative lights and a retaining wall.

“We need sidewalks, we need curbs, we need gutters,” said Robert Tucker, who owns the historic Taylor House on West Broadway. “That’s probably the most important thing and what started the discussion. As neighbors we were all talking about what we can do to get this worked on.”

Broadway neighbors met Wednesday night to discuss the engineering firm’s recommendations.

Janet Lee, director of Columbia Montessori School, which hosted the meeting, said she thinks the neighborhood might want a plan closer to its original proposal, but residents are still seeking consensus.

“In my opinion, the general consensus leaned toward the median being the biggest obstacle,” said Lee. “I think that they’re looking for some answers that will assist everybody.”

Some concerns voiced at the meeting included concern for traffic along side streets, insufficient green space, pedestrian safety, emergency vehicle routing, the elimination of left turns into driveways and the need for the city to acquire more land along the street.

The neighbors, Lee said, aren’t sure whether the medians are necessary. She noted that the engineers’ report shows that existing lanes provide sufficient capacity.

Tucker noted that his driveway would be blocked by the proposed median, restricting left turns to and from his property. Still, Tucker believes the advantages of the consultant’s plan outweigh the disadvantages. He does not oppose the right-turn-only trade-off.

“With everything that I’ve seen, I thought it was pretty cool on the grand scheme of things,” said Tucker, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting. “I guess they could have come up with stranger ideas, but in terms of green space and having dedicated lanes, I liked it. I’d like to get some feedback from other neighbors.”

The next step for neighbors will be to hold another meeting, but they’ve yet to schedule one.

City Manager Bill Watkins said in July that city officials also would like to meet with neighbors and to have some public forums on the proposal in September.

Lee said the neighbors want to be cooperative but also want to protect their interests.

“They’re all willing participants and don’t want to come across as complaining neighbors, but it’s their home. Certainly they will be affected,” Lee said.

A portion of this report first aired Monday during “News At 10” on KMIZ/Channel 17 ABC, Columbia.


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