‘Through the heart of the watermelon’

When Dale Coble and his wife came to review proposed plans for a Stadium Boulevard extension, they found out that their kitchen–as well as the rest of their property–was in the way.

The Cobles came to a public hearing to review the East Columbia Environmental Impact Statement draft, a study designed to address current and future transportation improvements in east Columbia. The transportation department has wheedled it’s four “recommended reasonable alternatives” down to one “preferred alternative” plan, which includes the Stadium extension, improvements to Broadway, and the probable extension of Ballenger Lane.

Hearing attendees included some of the homeowners from 15 houses that will be displaced by the new roadway, including Dale Coble and his wife, who have lived off St. Charles Road for 14 years.

Coble and his wife supported the project at first, until they realized the new extension would run right through the center of their 28-acre property.

“The road will cut right through our kitchen,” Coble said, “Right through the heart of the watermelon.”

The hearing  for the Draft EIS was held at the Elks’ Lodge, citizens walked through the study step by step and talked to study participants from MoDot, the city of Columbia, Boone County and CH2M Hill, the project’s engineers.

The Route 740 or Stadium extension, designated to be a four-lane divided highway,  will connect the existing US-63 interchange to the St. Charles Road interchange at US-70.  Broadway, or Route WW, is designated to become a multiple-lane major arterial that will  connect for to the Stadium extension. If Ballenger Lane is extended, it will connect to St. Charles Road and become a major arterial road.

Funds have yet to be designated for the project. Eric Shroeter, assistant district engineer through MoDot, said options included raising the money locally through group efforts or working the project into MoDot’s budget.

“Right now, everything’s on the table,” Shroeter said.

The Draft EIS is available online for public comment here until May 18. Written comments will be received until May 18 at: East Columbia EIS, 1034 South Brentwood Boulevard, Suite 2300, St. Louis, MO 63117.

Dan Sommer, Project Engineer for CH2M Hill, said public voice has been important throughout more than two years of public development.

“The preferred alternative is not by any means final,” Sommer said.

You can view maps of the proposed project and offer your opinions at: http://www.eastcolumbiaeis.com/.

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