Commission OKs Columbia Road widening
By Kevin Kelley
Published July 18, 2007
a 5-0 vote, the Planning Commission Monday night unanimously approved
the city’s proposal to widen a section of Columbia Road between
Hilliard Boulevard and Center Ridge Road from two lanes to four
The Planning Commission gave its approval despite
hearing from several residents who said they were opposed to the
The proposal now goes before City Council, which is
expected to give its approval at its regular meeting tomorrow evening.
The state has awarded the city $1.5 million for the
widening, an amount that is expected to cover 51 percent of the
project, Mayor Dennis Clough said.
The city will have the responsibility of covering
any cost overruns, he said.
City Hall received the contract for the state’s contribution
to the project July 3 and has 45 days from that date to sign it,
Clough told West Life.
In addition to widening the road, the project will
include the installation of new water lines, new driveway aprons
and improvements to storm sewer lines.
At Monday night’s Planning Commission meeting, Vern
Long, a Columbia Road resident who unsuccessfully ran for the Ward
2 Council seat in 2005, told commission members that residents were
opposed to the project.
“The residents don’t want four lanes,” Long said.
He said that he and his fellow residents are concerned
that the widening will bring more traffic driving at higher speeds.
This will create a safety hazard, he said.
Long urged that alternate measures be attempted, such
as making the far right- hand lanes turning-only lanes at the intersections
approaching the stretch of Columbia Road where the widening is planned.
This, Long said, would help negate the “drag strip effect” caused
when motorists race for the lead as two lanes merge into one.
Long and others allege the Clough administration is
pushing the project through despite residents’ objection.
“The impetus for this project seems to be coming from
City Hall, not from the residents,” Long said.
In April, Long presented City Council with a petition
signed by 76 residents opposing the widening project.
Another Columbia Road resident, Dennis Petti, said
he suspected the motivation for the project was political.
“This has been a done deal all the way down the line,”
City Engineer Bob Kelly said the turning-only lanes
idea would not address the traffic problems in the area. He said
widening Columbia to four lanes between Hilliard and Center Ridge
would make the area safer.
Planning Commission member John DesForges agreed.
“I think it’s a safety issue not to do the four lanes,”
he told residents.
Clough also said traffic studies indicate the project
will make the road safer.
“The better you move traffic, the safer the street,”
The mayor said he hopes the residents will work with
City Hall so that the project can move forward.
“I personally think everyone benefits,” he said of
Part of the residents’ opposition stemmed from an
earlier request by Clough that they donate to the city the land
from their yards that they will lose from the widening. But the
city has since backed away from that position.
Clough said the project was too important to debate
over the issue of compensation.
“I think it’s a tremendous benefit not only to the
entire community but also to the homeowners based on what’s included
in the project,” Clough said.
The city has agreed to compensate homeowners at a
rate of $4.01 per square foot they will lose in the widening, Kelly
Circumstances unique to a particular homeowner, such
as landscaping issues, may cause the compensation paid to a homeowner
to be more, Kelly said. Those issues will be resolved through negotiations,