Neighbors on board with West Broadway plan

Thursday, December 6, 2007 | 5:05 p.m. CST; updated 10:33 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

COLUMBIA — Landowners on and near West Broadway for the most part support the city’s plans for changes on the street, but as of now, there is no official timeline for doing the work and no plan in place to pay for it.

More than 60 residents signed a letter to the City Council in mid-November agreeing to work with the city to complete the West Broadway project. The letter proposes some modifications to the recommendations made after a traffic study performed last spring.

“Most people on the street were in favor of this,” Rick Hocks of 906 W. Broadway said. “We had a lot of talks, and in the final analysis this seemed like it was the best plan, and it was the traffic plan, so I felt compelled to go with it.”

Residents know the work is years away but wanted to get their ideas out ahead of time. Vicki Babb of 500 W. Broadway said she thought one reason residents continued talking about the issue is the $21.5 million federal grant Columbia received for projects intended to encourage biking and walking.

“I think the people on West Broadway saw it as an opportunity to ask for some of that money and show the government what we can do with that money and how we can benefit the town by utilizing it,” Babb said.

No firm plans for West Broadway have been set. The council will hold a work session, possibly within the next two months, to choose a design and discuss how to pay for it.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade called the residents’ suggestions “quite reasonable.”

“Right now, I don’t know what we’re going to be able to do in funding,” Wade said. “We’re just at the beginning of the process.”

The traffic study, performed by St. Louis-based traffic and transportation engineering company Crawford, Bunte and Brammeier, recommended medians to restrict left turns on West Broadway, roundabouts to decrease accidents and other changes to improve traffic flow.

The residents’ letter proposes a landscaped median that is no wider than eight feet, compared to the study’s recommendation of a 10-foot median. Residents do not want the street and accompanying amenities to be any wider than a total of 61 feet, but they do want grass between the sidewalks and the road.

Hocks, who helped write the letter, doesn’t think widening Broadway is necessary; he thinks traffic typically flows well on the street.

“If you have to wait for just a little while, that’s not a big deal,” Hocks said about so-called rush-hour traffic. “... People can go up and down it no problem.”

Babb said she enjoys walking along the street but that the sidewalks along Broadway are in bad shape.

Residents proposed the addition of grass between the road and the sidewalk to boost safety and to make the street prettier. They also proposed raised crosswalks and bulb-out medians to help children who walk down the street to school or the library each day.

Babb and Hocks agreed that by following the residents’ recommendations, West Broadway can be a drive to downtown that all residents of Columbia can be proud of.

“You want something to try to show your town off,” Hocks said. “That benefits everyone in the town, not just the people on the street.”

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