Clark Lane Residents Protest Again

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COLUMBIA - Troy Balthazor, information specialist with the Great Plains Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center, spoke to the City Council Monday night on behalf of residents living along Clark Lane and the Mid-Missouri Advocacy Coalition. 

Several people living along Clark Lane have disabilities that make it difficult to traverse the road, which doesn't have shoulders or sidewalks. The city is planning on adding six foot striped asphalt shoulders to the sides of Clark Lane, and narrowing the road by one foot--instead of adding sidewalks, which is what residents want. The city's planned improvements would start in the spring of next year and be finished later in the summer. The city plans to add sidewalks at a later date, in anticipation of federal grant money coming to the city.

Councilman Karl Skala said the city's improvements need to be completed first before the sidewalks since the city's improvements could cause portions of the sidewalk to be torn up, but Balthazor wasn't convinced.

"I just question the idea that we can't, through engineering and other development be able to put in a compliant, regular sidewalk, that can later be incorporated into a street-widening design," said Balthazor.

Balthazor told city council, "We question why, regardless of later street development, a sidewalk or pedway could not be provided in the area to maximize safety and meet the standards we currently utilize for pedestrian facility access in Columbia." 

Skala, who lives in and represents the 3rd ward, said he understands this is a public safety concern, and he wished his constituents could see that the city is looking out for the residents' safety.

"I'd like to get the message out there that this is a solution for public safety," Skala said. "We can have it next year. If we don't take advantage of this $400,000 extension of the aprons and the road base we will not have any improvements to this road for two to three years, I mean, that's just the nature of the beast." 

Skala also expressed his confusion at the residents' furor over the city's improvements, which he said are in preparation for the sidewalks they have requested.

"Frankly, I'm quite perplexed as to why there is this opposition, the kind of opposition that suggests if we can't have it all we want nothing," Skala said. "Nothing is not safe. We need public safety here and this is a step in the right direction."

Skala also said the city could be to blame for the public's confusion on the city's long-term goals for Clark Lane. 

"Frankly, the staff and the city council probably has been a little bit remiss in providing clarification for this to make sure folks understand that without this improvement to provide additional public safety, there will be no public safety for two or three years," Skala said.

Skala said he urges anyone concerned about the future of the road to come to the informational meeting about the road. It's Nov. 6 at Blue Ridge Elementary School starting at 5:30 p.m.