The Columbia Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission met Wednesday at City Hall to further discuss the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Improve I-70 Project, which will add a third lane to the interstate across the state.
They also plan to make improvements to the Interstate 70 corridor from Highway 63 from Boone County to Highway 54 in Callaway County.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission felt that it was a great opportunity to address a growing concern of theirs.
“Currently crossing the 63 connector is a really big issue people are getting killed doing it. We had five pedestrian fatalities,” Commission Chair Elke Boyd said. “Pedestrian attractors, which are the motels, shopping, and retail stores nearby and we have low-income neighborhoods. We have neighborhoods defined by MoDOT as 'disadvantaged.' There are lots of people living and working and shopping and visiting doctors in the 63 connector area that do not drive for various reasons.”
Members of the commission are concerned that the project does not do enough to address bike and pedestrian safety. While there is a mention of safety in MoDOT’s Request for Quotation, they feel there is not enough emphasis on it.
Hominy Creek Trail is right up against Interstate 70. meanwhile, Clark Lane has also seen multiple pedestrian deaths. The Hominy Creek Trail is one of the only ways to safely get across the interstate, but that is not convenient for most pedestrians.
According to documents from MoDOT, it intends to improve accessibility along and across the corridor for bicycles and pedestrians. MoDOT is still listening to input to find out the best way to do just that however it is not one of their top priorities. Residents can also give comments online until Friday,
“In our current design process, we have more questions than we have answers at this point. So we have heard from a number of citizens in our public meetings that pedestrian and bike accommodations are a priority. We are going to try to accommodate those as best as possible but the real focus of this corridor is adding that third lane,” Eric Kopinski, Improve I-70 Program director, said.
The commission is disappointed MoDOT did not list safety and accessibility as one of its main goals.
In response, they will be writing a letter to the mayor and City Council in an effort to get MoDOT to change the language in the request for proposal.
“We want one of those requirements to be that there's non-motorized connectivity across each lane of that intersection,” Elke said.
MoDOT will be submitting their request for proposal on Thursday, Oct. 5. Elke said the commission feels like it is only going to get one shot to get that language added to it, so it isgoing to make a strong push in their letter to City Council.
The budget for the entire Improve I-70 Project is $2.8 billion. The money will come out of the state's general revenue funds, which Gov. Mike Parson approved from the 2024 budget.
Funds for the part of Interstate 70 that runs through Columbia includes $185 million aimed at improving the Highway 63 exit and fixing pavement issues. Another $410 million would go toward creating new bridges, replacing pavement and adding a new lane in each direction. Those lanes would be about 13 miles long.
The project is set to be completed in December of 2027.
The next step for MoDOT to take for the project is to set up a team of engineering designers and construction industries to figure out a schedule for the projects.