Worley and Ash streets feel traffic crunch

Monday, August 20, 2007 | 2:20 p.m. CDT; updated 7:15 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

The city should take a look at the plan for the circulation of traffic in the central part of Columbia. Some neighborhoods are being sacrificed to move traffic. If continued, the results in another decade or two will be a blighted area, the loss of a significant, but still viable, part of the moderate income housing supply, and an ugly scar on the image of the city. The neighborhoods at risk are located between two of the city’s largest traffic generators, the downtown area and the developing commercial area on the city’s west side. Fifteen thousand vehicles a day are punching through the heart of this area on Worley and Ash streets, an estimated volume of traffic at least twice that generated by the neighborhoods themselves.

The use of Worley and Ash streets to carry through traffic did not happen by design, but rather by dint of circumstance; the Worley and Ash neighborhoods were laid out with no thought of serving later as a means of access to a major regional shopping complex. Now Ash is offered as a solution to Broadway’s traffic problem. Ash and Worley streets were not designed to accommodate heavy traffic loads. The rights of way are too narrow, parking is prohibited on some segments and some houses are too close to the street. The result is that traffic is practically in the laps of adjacent residents. The lack of sidewalks on both sides of Worley and Ash streets, force pedestrians, including the elderly and school children, to cross heavy traffic flows or to walk in the street. Residents complain of the dangers of having to back into heavy traffic to exit their driveways.

Heavy traffic is the bane of residential neighborhoods and a principal cause of blight. Experience shows residential areas protected from heavy traffic best preserve property values. The reasons are clear enough. Traffic is a major source of noise and air pollution, a disturber of sleep, the enemy of tranquility and the safety of bikers and pedestrians.

Accordingly, in well-planned residential neighborhoods, elementary schools and parks should be built in places central to the neighborhoods they serve. Streets should be designed to carry through traffic on arteries around not through elementary school attendance areas and neighborhood park service areas. Unfortunately, this simple principle has been overlooked in the lack of coordinated planning between the city and the schools. Elementary schools, such as Fairview and Mill Creek, are located on, not away from, major arteries, making walking to school hazardous and reducing the carrying capacity of the artery by slowing traffic in school zones.

The Russell Boulevard Neighborhood is a good example of how a neighborhood street system should be developed. Through traffic is carried around the neighborhood on Broadway, Stadium and West boulevards, minimizing the intrusion of through traffic and protecting a substantial part of the Russell Boulevard Elementary School attendance and Kiwanis Park service areas.

No such protection is available for the areas north of Broadway. Ash and Worley streets are designated to continue to carry heavy traffic loads on the City’s Transportation Plan and to slice through the West Elementary School attendance area. Both streets are designated as major collectors. As matters of social and economic justice, the preservation of neighborhood and property values and the avoidance of blight, the city should stop the heedless use of streets in its low and moderate income neighborhoods as corridors of travel for through traffic. To effect such a change, Ash and Worley streets should be designated as neighborhood collectors, that is as streets whose function is to carry traffic originating in or destined for the neighborhoods to arterial streets. Traffic reduction and calming improvements should be implemented such as strategically placed stop signs, speed bumps or perhaps barriers near the eastern and western ends of the neighborhoods. Sidewalks should be installed on both sides of the streets. And traffic enhancements such as roundabouts on Ash Street should be avoided.

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