Greek houses, residents oppose Providence plans

The city is considering five different options for the project.
Phi Kappa Psi alumnus Randy Fisk discusses Providence Road construction Tuesday at City Hall. Potential construction on Providence could affect the Phi Kappa Psi house, as the construction would lead through the house's front yard.

More than 50 people crowded into a city conference room Tuesday to learn about proposed Providence Road improvements and many of the plans met a steady flow of criticism.

Residents at the meeting viewed maps of five different proposals for road improvements on Providence between Turner Avenue and Stadium Boulevard and filed comments to the city. Several also complained to Columbia's supervising traffic engineer Scott Bitterman, who was at the meeting.

Bitterman told the crowd there were several plans still being considered. He said the city was not trying to inconvenience anyone, but rather improve public safety.

"What we're trying to do is smooth out the traffic flow going onto and on Providence," Bitterman said.

Several MU fraternity and sorority houses are adjacent to the section of Providence up for improvement. One plan, called "Rollins to Burnam" would extend Rollins Street west to Burnam Road.

This proposal would put a road through the front yard of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

Phi Kappa Psi President Max Wheeler said the proposed road would be about 80 feet from the fraternity house and could pose a danger to its members. He also said it would interfere with tailgate parties during football season, which bring in revenue for the house.

"We're pretty against it because we like our property the way it is," Wheeler said. "Having that street through our property would be a big scar on the front of our property."

He said Phi Kappa Psi members had been unable to attend Tuesday's meeting but would attend future meetings on the road proposals.

Several members of the Phi Kappa Psi Corp. housing board were present and distributing fliers with their arguments against putting the road through the fraternity's property.

The housing board is made up of Phi Kappa Psi alumni and controls the fraternity's property.

The board's handouts stated the land would cost they city more than $1 million. In addition, the fliers stated the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission recognized the land as a "2010 Most Notable Property."

The group has already given about an acre of its property to previous city projects, the handout also stated.

One board member, Randy Fisk, said the property's history shows it should be preserved.

"Now we're trying to figure out which proposal makes the most sense," Fisk said. "We're a historical property, and this proposal cuts it in half."

Another proposal, called "Turner Signal/Burnam Signal," was displayed to attendees. It calls for a solid median to separate northbound and southbound traffic on Providence from Bingham Road to Stadium.

Columbia resident Bernice Prost loudly objected to the plan because residents of the subdivisions near Bingham would not be able to turn left to go north on Providence toward downtown.

"Well, that one's out," she said. "We have to be able to turn left out of our subdivision."

Transportation engineering graduate student Nick Ressel said he somewhat supports the "Rollins to Clarkson" proposal. It would extend Rollins Street straight West through a wooded area to intersect Clarkson Road, a residential road off Burnam.

"I don't feel that land's being used and it wouldn't be taking anyone's land," Ressel said. "This is probably the worst stretch of road in Columbia."

But Ressell said he also opposed it because it would keep Rollins and Fifth Street as one-way streets.

Maps of the five proposals have been posted to the Public Works Department's website as the "Providence Road Intersection Improvements." Residents can submit comments through an online form. All comments must be received by May 5.

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