Residents share opinions about new plans for south Columbia intersection

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents showed mixed reactions to the city’s new plans for the Forum Boulevard and Green Meadows Road intersection at a Tuesday open house.

About 80 people attended the meeting at Rock Bridge Elementary School to discuss and ask questions about the five designs suggested by the Columbia Public Works Department. The intersection has four-way stop signs with multiple lanes, causing difficulties for drivers and pedestrians to know when to cross.

Allison Anderson, the city’s engineering supervisor, said the department has received many complaints about drivers failing to fully stop at the signs at the intersection. Thirteen collisions were reported at the intersection between January 2011 and December 2015, Anderson said.

The Forum and Green Meadows intersection project was originally planned as a roundabout in 2016. After facing opposition last September, the Columbia City Council directed the department to look for other options and discuss the plan with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission.

The Public Works Department added four new options in January: a full signal, a reduced signal, a J-turn and a J-turn with a pedestrian signal. The Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission, however, decided to support the roundabout design for better safety after reviewing the five concepts last November, according to the Public Works Department website.

Anderson said the roundabout is one of the safest options for pedestrians and for drivers.

“The way roundabouts are set up forces the traffic to slow down to about 15 to 20 miles per hour to go around the roundabouts,” Anderson said.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, roundabouts significantly reduce crashes where people are injured or killed by around 80 percent, compared to conventional stop-controlled and signalized intersections.

Nevertheless, some residents at the meeting worried about a roundabout at the intersection.

John John, a long-time Columbia resident, said he owns property in the surrounding neighborhood and is unhappy with the city’s original plan for roundabout.

“I think one of the two-lighted intersection plans would be the best,” John said. “The roundabout doesn’t fit the space they’re trying to put it in.”

According to the city’s current plan, a partial two-lane roundabout would be added at the intersection with four legs of six lanes.

Eleanore Wickersham, a 12-year resident of the neighborhood, said she participated in the public hearing last September, along with around 30 other homeowners’ association members.

“If you are trying to get out from Green Meadows, there is going to be two lanes of traffic to your left,” Wickersham said. “In the roundabout situation, the people to your left have the right of way and we could easily be sitting there, watching these cars go and go and not have our turn to go.”

Another public hearing on the project is expected to take place this fall, Anderson said. The project would be funded by the city’s quarter-cent capital improvement sales tax that voters approved in 2015. Construction is scheduled to start in 2019.

Supervising editor is Hannah Black.

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