COLUMBIA-For almost 40 years, Jim and Nancy Davenport have lived in the same house. Now 15 feet outside Columbia city limits, it was about a mile and a half away from the city boundary when it was built in 1969.
It’s a good thing the Davenports have no immediate plans to leave their neighborhood, because they doubt they could sell their home while plans for major road projects in the area, including an extension of Stadium Boulevard to the northeast, remain in flux.
“I’m getting tired of hearing about it,” Nancy Davenport said.
“You can’t do anything,” said her husband, Jim. “You can’t sell your house. No one on this street can do that because of the state of limbo (of this project).”
The couple said they wish the project’s leaders would go ahead and decide the exact alignment of the Stadium extension. And while an environmental impact statement on road projects planned for East Columbia has been in the works since 2005, it has been delayed by the need to switch to a new consulting firm.
Final contract negotiations between the global engineering consulting firm CH2M Hill and the Missouri Department of Transportation are about to end a period of limbo that has been in place since the transportation agency relieved the original engineering firm, Burns and McDonnell of Kansas City, from its duties in mid-May.
Despite the setback, Mike Dusenburg, planning manager for the Transportation Department’s District 5, anticipates finishing the project by fall 2008, barring any major issues that arise from public comment.
The only real delay, Dusenburg said, will be in the selection of a “preferred plan” for the Stadium extension. While that selection was originally slated to be finished by the end of this summer, it now won’t happen until early 2008.
CH2M Hill, Dusenburg said, is the same team that completed the environmental impact statement for the planned widening of Interstate 70 through Columbia. The proposed project manager, Buddy Desai, also worked on that project and said he is excited about the prospect of working with the city of Columbia again. Desai said one of the goals when he does these types of projects is to promote communication between his company and the different stakeholders, such as affected residents.
“Once we get under contract, if there is a group of stakeholders that haven’t been updated, I would like to chat with them and make sure they feel better that progress is being made,” Desai said. “I encourage people to call me directly, so I can quell rumors as quickly as possible.”
“We are not starting over,” Dusenburg said of CH2M Hill’s current involvement in the plan. He said all of the data compiled by Burns and McDonnell has been transferred to CH2M Hill so that the agency can “hit the ground running.”
Dusenburg said he plans to have study team meetings later this year to kick-start the process. Those will be followed by additional public meetings before the final written environmental impact statement proposal is submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation in fall 2008.
For a project that began almost two years ago, there has been insufficient progress under the guidance of Burns and McDonnell, Dusenburg said.
John Glascock, Public Works director for Columbia, agreed.
“It just wasn’t proceeding like it was supposed to be at the pace that the city, county, as well as the state wanted it to be,” he said.
The environmental impact statement will examine how population growth and rapid development will affect transportation in an area of Columbia bounded by Interstate 70 to the north, New Haven Road on the south and U.S. 63 to the west, according to the project’s Web site. The eastern boundary lies just west of Rangeline Road.
A consulting firm’s responsibility in this type of project is to take the lead on a lot of the project’s technical work, Dusenburg said.
“Basically when we hire a consultant, they are hired because of the resources they can provide to us,” he said. “In this case, we hired CH2M Hill to do the technical work, the data gathering and also work on a lot of the community relations.”
Dusenburg said the Transportation Department choose CH2M Hill over many other firms that submitted proposals because the department felt that while being well known, CH2M Hill had more experience in the Columbia area than other firms and was well-respected in terms of environmental firms.
As of today, the Transportation Department has allocated no money for actual construction of the Stadium extension.
“Before that work can be taken place, you have to go through these studies,” Dusenburg said. “If you hope to use any federal funds, such as a federal earmark, you have to go through the National Environmental Policy Act.”