Tabled pedestrian improvements would help Hickman High students

BY Eric Holmberg

COLUMBIA — Hickman High School students might not have to cross six lanes of traffic to grab lunch if pedestrian improvements are approved for the intersection at Providence Road and Business Loop 70.

The City Council tabled a bill Tuesday night that would have green-lighted construction plans because property owners of adjacent lots were not notified. The issue will be addressed for a third time at the council’s Oct. 4 meeting.

The project would change how Hickman students can access the two roads. A staircase from the parking lot that leads to Providence Road would be closed and a fence would direct students from the parking lot down a ramp to a large waiting area before they cross the street.

Today, navigating a busy thoroughfare with no safe walkway leaves students few options.

“They tell us not to do it,” said Makayla Benney, a Hickman student. “They come over the intercom and they’re like, ‘Don’t cross the street unless you’re at a crosswalk,’ blah, blah, blah, and I’m like, who cares?”

The intersection does not currently have any pedestrian signals and has two faded crosswalks. The new plan would call for pedestrian signals at every corner, crosswalks on all four sides and two concrete islands to break up the walk across the road.

The plan would also replace the 4-foot-wide sidewalk with an 8-foot-wide walkway next to Hickman along Providence Road between Wilkes Boulevard and Business Loop 70.

Even though the council almost acted on the bill at Tuesday’s meeting, Sharon Lynch, who owns property at the northwest corner of the intersection, wanted further details about the plan before its approval.

“I think there was probably a lack of communication, so am I frustrated? No. I was on the city council for six years so I know there’s a lot of things on their plate and a lot of projects that people want completed,” Lynch said.  “But I do think citizen communication is very important when you’re talking about condemnation of private property.”

If the bill had passed, it would have allowed the Columbia Public Works department to begin negotiations to purchase nearby land.

Construction is not expected to begin until early summer and may take three months to complete the entire project, according to city traffic engineer Richard Stone. The city hopes to finish construction before the start of the next school year.

The project is expected to cost between $600,000 and $700,000.

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