Columbia Road Projects Wait for Funding

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COLUMBIA - Columbia looked at its priority list for road projects and is planning projects through its Capital Improvement Plan for the next one to two years.

The current Capital Improvement Plan, which was passed by voters in 2005, includes physical projects over a 10 year period involving streets, sidewalks, parks, etc. City Manager Mike Matthes said the community's number one focus is roads.

The current Capital Improvement Plan includes 22 streets and sidewalk projects that are proposed to be started before 2015. These projects will cost a total of $12 million. The city has already allocated $5 million. Out of the remaining $7 million, the city still doesn't know where it will get $4.5 million.

City council members reviewed the priority list and some of them said they want certain projects to be done soon.

Karl Skala, third ward representative, said the St. Charles Road project was on the very top of the list a few years ago, but it has moved down the list. Skala said Battle High School will open this fall, and St. Charles Road in front of the school might not be ready for heavy traffic.

"There was a concern from the neighborhood since 2005. It's an unapproved road that really needs some upgrades. But subsequently to that, the new high school property is located at the northeast, so there is an additional pressure now to make sure that is a safe route," said Skala.

Skala said the project is proposed with a cost of over $8 million. The project was not funded; therefore, it was shifted down on the list.

"They have come to the limit of that amount of money, and it is a matter of negotiation. There is only a certain amount of money, and we decide which projects are the largest priorities for each individual ward. In this case, there is an additional compelling reason to shift that St. Charles Road project upward, because of the public safety aspect to the new high school," said Skala.

Barbara Hoppe, sixth ward representative, said the Ashland sidewalk project in her ward has been on the list for long and should have been started, and she did not want to upset the neighborhood.

John Glascock, director of the Public Works Department, said the council will decide what's important to the community, and the department decides what to do when it has the money to fund projects. Some projects took a long time to get approved by MoDot, and sometimes the funding is not immediately available. He said projects that are less expensive usually will move upward on the list.

"We do work with council, to get the ones they see the needs for. But there are a lot of needs compared to the money," Clascock said.

Glascock said although the department is short on money, he believes the city will come up with the money, and will build that was promised to the community.