COLUMBIA — The long-anticipated proposed extension of Lemone Industrial Boulevard is no more.
At Monday night’s City Council meeting following two hours of discussion, the council unanimously approved a shift in plans that would extend Maguire Boulevard north to a future extension of Stadium Boulevard to alleviate traffic congestion instead of extending Lemone.
There is currently only one route in and out of Concorde Office and Industrial Plaza, an industrial park that sees 3,500 cars daily.
“Two thousand people come to work there on a daily basis with one way out,” said City Manager Bill Watkins. “It is not a good situation.”
One resident who spoke at Monday’s meeting said it took upwards of 25 minutes to get in or out of the plaza. Eleven other residents spoke at the public hearing.
Initially, the council decided in November 2006 to extend Lemone Industrial Boulevard to help alleviate traffic.
But the Department of Public Works decided that extending Maguire Boulevard would be a better plan. The plan also calls for providing another access point between Warren Road and New Haven Avenue, which is Route AC.
The Lemone extension has been discussed for years, seemingly since Bob Lemone first bought the property that would become Concorde Office and Industrial Plaza in 1973.
Given the economic growth the park has generated, the council now has an increasing interest in the area’s upkeep.
“It’s been brought up to me again and again that the best economic development is to take care of what you’ve got,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said. “That industry is telling us that we’ve got an unacceptable traffic problem there. It’s up to us to support it.”
Chris Knutson, an employee of Carfax, which operates in the plaza, said potential employees have heard horror stories about the traffic. If it’s not fixed, Knutson said, the traffic may force Carfax to explore other locations.
Others who spoke at the meeting were critical of the two bridges that would be built over Grindstone Creek, citing environmental concerns.
“In the best of all possible worlds I’d like to not see those bridges built. Should these bridges be built, I would hope that they could be done in the greenest manner possible,” resident Hank Ottinger said.
Hindman said that the builders would do everything they could to explore green construction techniques.
While Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala initially criticized the plan for using too much public funding, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade thought differently.
“I do believe that the cost sharing on this road is appropriate,” Wade said.
The total cost for the project is estimated at about $8.9 million.
Bob Lemone has said he will fund a portion of the road, and Stadium 63 Properties will pay for the rest though a Transportation Development District. Columbia would pay about $5 million for the two bridges.
“To say that we’re using public dollars for the benefit of a few people is very selfish,” Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said, noting that the companies pay about $1 million in property taxes. “We as a community have failed. There is a need today to solve this problem. We need to move forward.”