Columbia adds brighter lights and safer shelters

The city worked with CID and the Public Works Departments in two new projects.
Local businesses line the sides of Alley A on Oct. 30, 2015. Columbia City Council is working with the Downtown Community Improvement District and Public Works Department to bring LED lights to areas in Columbia.

Columbia City Council is working with the Downtown Community Improvement District and Public Works Department to bring LED lights and new bus shelters to Columbia. The LED lights will be installed on private and public property in the downtown area. The bus shelters, which were designed by MU Architectural Studies students, will be updated at high-traffic areas around town.

Illuminated Alleyways

The Downtown Community Improvement District donated 25 LED lights and $2,500 for installation to the city to improve lighting in two alleys downtown: Alley A, near Shortwave Coffee, and an alley north of Broadway, behind Commerce Bank and Calhoun’s.

CID director Katie Essing said the donation is part of a larger project to install 60 LEDs downtown on public and private property. The donated lights will be put up on property owned by the city.

During a nighttime walk with the Columbia Police Department to identify safety issues downtown, Essing said she realized some alleys are completely black at night. Increased lighting will improve safety on uneven pavement and deter illegal activities, like graffiti, in the alleys at night.

Essing said CID researched light fixtures to find the right fit for the project. They wanted an LED solution that faced downward to avoid illuminating apartments above businesses.

LED lights are environmentally friendly and are better for business owners, Essing said. The light bulbs will be changed once every 20 years and have light sensors to turn them on and off automatically at dusk and dawn, minimizing the work property owners will have to do.

CID already put up some light fixtures in the alley between Harpo’s and Pizza Tree as a test for the project. Essing said seeing the improvement made by better lighting in the first alley confirmed the project’s value.

Campus and Community Relations Committee Chairman Alex Higginbotham of the Missouri Students Association, said CCRC is always in favor of increased lighting but would like to see some outreach directed to areas where more students live, especially East Campus. He said that area has a high crime rate and “abysmal” lighting, which he thinks are connected.

“Students feel very nervous to walk home in East Campus because they can’t see,” Higginbotham said. “We would love to see the same kind of focus put on areas other than downtown.”

Essing said she hopes the lights will be up within the next few months. For the remaining lights, she said CID is still working with business owners to get official approval to add the light fixture to their property.

Updated bus shelters

The Columbia Public Works Department plans to add 18 bus shelters designed by MU students at 14 locations throughout the city in the beginning of 2016.

Drew Brooks, multimodal manager for the Columbia Public Works Department, said the department tried to be “data-driven” when determining the best locations for new bus stops. Stops with high ridership and transfers to other lines were chosen, though there was an opportunity for public input.

Community members voted on the design of the bus shelters, which were submitted by MU students in a partnership between COMO Connect and the Architectural Studies Department.

The team “Fab Collab” won the first place Jury Award and Peoples’ Favorite, for which 2,970 votes were cast from community members, according to a July 2014 progress report.

The cost of installing each shelter is approximately $11,000, according to a city council document. Brooks said the cost will vary by site depending on the amount of work needed to be done — at one site, the Public Works Department is funding the addition of pedestrian signals.

Brooks said the city is waiting to obtain federal grants to finance the project. Once the grants are approved, the city will collect bids from contractors to build the structures.

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