Columbia seeks public input on Ballenger Lane and other roads

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COLUMBIA – Columbia Public Works will host a meeting on the future of Ballenger Road Tuesday night, the first of four interested-party meetings scheduled over the coming weeks.

Ballenger Lane stretches more than a mile between two roundabouts in north Columbia.

Initial designs call for expanding roadways on both sides by six feet. Pedestrians and bicyclists use these lanes to travel on the road, since there are no direct sidewalks.

“When you talk to the homeowners out there, they notice people walking up and down the side of the road,” said Scott Fitzgerald, Columbia Public Works engineer. “It will be nice to get them off the grass and on a hard surface to walk, and a lot of the homeowners are really in favor of it.” 

Construction on Ballenger Lane could begin as soon as 2019. After Tuesday’s meeting, the city council would need to approve the plan to set a firm timetable.

Barry Dalton, Columbia Public Works community relations director, said Columbia residents voted in 2015 on a transportation sales tax that would fund projects up for discussion in future interested-party meetings if approved.

“This is a long process of public input and public hearings, so the city council can make the best decision, not only based on public works recommendations, but also the residents as well,” Dalton said.

Dalton said the interested-party meetings apply to more than just residents who live by the roads.

“You may not live in a neighborhood where there’s a roundabout or an intersection improvement, but you may commute through that area,” Dalton said. “We want to get everyone’s voices heard so we can develop a plan that fits within what the community wants or needs in our city.”

Fitzgerald said the meetings are valuable for community feedback and understanding concerns from residents and drivers.

“You can send letters out, you can communicate on the phone, but when everyone sits down in a room, it really is a good atmosphere, people can discuss things and you get a lot accomplished in a small amount of time,” Fitzgerald said.

The Public Works Department will also hold meetings to discuss preliminary ideas for parts of Nifong Boulevard, Oakland Gravel Road and Green Meadows Road before the end of June.

Tuesday’s meeting takes place at Battle High School at 5:30 p.m.