Columbia talks road improvements

Travel was the main topic of interest during the first meeting of the year for the Columbia City Council last Tuesday.

Columbia City Engineer Chris Smith began discussion by updating the council on plans for federal funds for road improvements.

He explained the Surface Transportation Program funds had previously been used for projects on Main Street and Rueck, Ghent and Quarry roads, and that he would focus on areas to the west of Route 3, specifically Gall, Sand Bank and Valmeyer roads, Westpark Drive and Veterans Parkway.

Smith suggested the city apply for improvements to Gall Road first, as it is the road in the worst condition currently.

“It needs to be improved.  It’s got a really narrow right-of-way. There’s two bridges on it, which presents its own challenges,” Smith said, adding the work would likely need to be completed in three phases with bridge improvements also being a possibility.

While the funds would not be disbursed for a potential Gall Road project until 2028, applications are due later this winter. 

If approved, Smith said he would like to start the design process this fall due to the “considerable amount of right-of-way” acquisition needed to make the project a success.

“The game plan would be similar to what we did on Ghent and Quarry (roads), which would be a reconstruction, new curb and gutter, sidewalk, bringing up to compliance the curves – critical curves and horizontal curves,” Smith began. “But one drawback is it’s only 40 foot right-of-way through most of that, so we’ll have to acquire at least a strip to make it work.”   

He added Valmeyer Road is second on the list for needing improvements, but work needs to be done to “stabilize” Carr Creek, which runs adjacent to the road.

Smith explained the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers holds jurisdiction for the creek, and he will be meeting with them this week to discuss what actions can be taken in that area. 

Although Smith said Sand Bank Road is in good condition, an intersection improvement and other work will be necessary if anticipated development in the northern edge of the city goes as planned. 

Concerning the near future, the council authorized an agreement between the city and Illinois Department of Transportation  and appropriated funds for the Carl Street Bridge Replacement Project.

Smith explained the council had already approved a similar resolution, but noted work by Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger has allowed IDOT to provide an extra $300,000 for the project, reducing Columbia’s matching contribution from $400,000 to $200,000.

The project will be let for bidding in March. 

Ward I Alderman Jay Riddle suggested work also be done on Carl Street on the hill past the bridge if future work on Gall Road is anticipated.

Smith agreed with Riddle, noting motorists use Carl Street as an alternate route to access Gall Road, and he said it may be possible to budget money for next year to perform resurfacing work on Carl Street in conjunction with the project or shortly thereafter.

The meeting began with Ward III Alderman Jeff Huch thanking Smith and Columbia Police Chief Jason Donjon for meeting with Huch and a Columbia Lakes resident concerning the intersection of Columbia Lakes Drive and Old Route 3.

The resident was concerned that a proposed business district in the area may negatively impact what he described as an already problematic exit point from Columbia Lakes Drive. 

According to a report provided by Donjon, in the past five years there have been seven accidents – one with injury – at the intersection, which Huch explained does not meet the criteria for safety improvement.

Huch continued by saying if the business district is approved, “that will be one of those intersections through that corridor that will take some (financial) commitment by the city” as it is not eligible for state or federal funds.

A date for a public hearing concerning the business district in question was approved during the meeting. This hearing will be at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 5 prior to the city council meeting at City Hall.

Read more about the business district proposal in the Jan. 31 issue of the Republic-Times.

In other business, Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm discussed an overhaul of the city code. 

Brimm explained he would like to send a project description to various firms for their input in revising the code. 

Brimm said the code update would require review of any internal inconsistency as well as compliance with state and federal guidelines. 

Once feedback is received, the council would then consider the pros and cons of using the respective firms before entering into an agreement.

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Scott Woodsmall

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