Renovations to hopefully improve East Campus issues

The proposals include a barrier and disabled accessible crosswalks.

Simply crossing College Avenue can be a struggle, and finding parking near MU’s campus can be even harder. Convenience is often pitted against safety and courtesy. The City of Columbia is debating several measures to improve pedestrian safety and parking on College Avenue and East Campus.

Pedestrians

Columbia officials have recently worked to address unsafe street crossings, especially on South College Avenue. The busy road separates MU’s campus from the East Campus neighborhood where many students live and park. Instead of walking to inconvenient crosswalks, pedestrians often choose to run across the lanes in the face of oncoming traffic.

After a public hearing May 19, City Council authorized a two-foot barrier along the avenue, topped by a two-foot fence. The barrier will be broken by two mid-block crosswalks. Additionally, the left turn lane onto Rosemary Lane and Wilson and Bouchelle avenues will be covered by the barrier, according to the College Avenue Safety Enhancement (CASE) report. The project is in the final design phase, and construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2015.

“I do think it will make it safer for both pedestrians and vehicles,” city transportation engineer Cliff Jarvis said. “Cars will be able to predict the behavior of pedestrians better. When pedestrians can step off of the sidewalk at any time, you're driving white-knuckled all the time."

MU freshman Madison Nelson rushed across College Avenue on her way to pomp for her sorority, dodging cars. She said she lives across campus, and rarely crosses the street, so a barrier wouldn’t affect her much. But when she does have to cross College Avenue, she said she rarely uses a crosswalk. She said her sorority friends were annoyed by the prospect of a barrier.

“It’s probably safer, but I know it will frustrate a lot of people who don’t like waiting for the crosswalk,” she said.

Jarvis said two crosswalks are planned on College Avenue near the Physics and Schlundt buildings. The crosswalks will have two High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk beacon (HAWK) signals, the first of their kind in Columbia. When activated by a pedestrian, HAWK signals force motorists to stop and tell pedestrians when to cross.

The entire CASE project is expected to cost $750,000.

Jarvis said the planned changes will have "significant safety impacts."

Parking

Improvements must also be made east of College Avenue. The streets of East Campus are clogged with cars, and city officials have now been debating options for a year.

Anne Case-Halferty and her husband live in what she calls “deep campus,” in an area mostly rented by students. She said her house was built in 1916, and her family has lived in it since the 1950s. Case-Halferty, who works as assistant director of alumni relations for the Mizzou Alumni Association, said she and her husband love East Campus’ proximity to campus and downtown.

“It’s the perfect place for us to live, given our lifestyle,” Case-Halferty said.

She said parking has always been an issue for residents of East Campus, but has become more acute with MU’s growing student body and the lack of sufficient university and downtown parking.

Cars block her driveway at least twice a week, fly down narrow streets, knock off side mirrors or run into pedestrians, Case-Halferty said. She said when her elderly grandmother lived in the house, sometimes they were unable to get out of the house to the doctor’s office and one time the ambulance was unable to get close to their house and had to park on the corner. Currently, the only way to enforce parking violations is by complaints, which Case-Halferty said is inefficient and often ineffective.

“The number one issue, in my mind, is not all of us who live here but the commuters who drive in and park their car,” Case-Halferty said. “They don’t realize it’s a neighborhood. They treat it like a parking lot.”

MU senior Mark Anderson and six other students share a house on University Avenue. It’s a typical bachelor pad crammed with thrift store couches and Fireball whiskey and a driveway jammed with cars.

Anderson said student commuters often park illegally on the street and walk to campus. He said his landlord offers a towing service, but he finds it hard to know which cars are unfamiliar, and he has never called to have a car towed.

Anderson said the city should crack down on commuters and any solution to parking must be enforced.

The city has proposed requiring permits and/or meters on East Campus between 8am and 5pm. After prolonged discussion with citizens and the East Campus Neighborhood Association, the city decided to hire a mediator to solve the disputes.

Case-Halferty said she wants to see a solution agreed upon by homeowners, landlords and students. The city has presented three potential solutions, and Case-Halferty said she prefers a permit system, in which students would pay a small fee to park their car in East Campus. She suggested landlords could provide one or two parking permits per residence; she thinks that since students pay premium rent to live in East Campus, they should be able to park their cars where they live.

“Permits are really the only way we can do it so people can live in the neighborhood and park in the street,” Case-Halferty said.

Students may feel uninvolved in the conflict, Case-Halferty said, and the city often assumes that students rent an apartment for a year and then move on, thus having little investment in the issue. But Case-Halferty said she wants to hear from students who live in the neighborhood and want to find a solution.

“It’s not just a residential issue,” she said. “Anyone who lives in this area has been affected by (parking). Students have every right to live here and park here.”

On the whole, Anderson said he is detached from the conflict. He said it is a problem, but commuters don’t bother him and he probably won’t remain in the house that he rents. But he said that as more and more students move into East Campus, the problems will increase.

“I could see East Campus getting to the point where it’s only students living there,” Anderson said.

If that happens, he thinks the university would have an obligation to address parking.

“Maybe the university should correct this problem and maybe it should build a parking lot,” he said.

Although Anderson said any long-term solution may cost the area its charm and convenience, he said he wants to see a solution that makes everyone happy and keeps the area’s spirit.

“The quaintness of East Campus is something that we all want to protect,” he said.

Case-Halferty said she has no plans to leave. She said she hopes that the city will arrive at a solution beneficial for all residents of the area.

“We all have a stake in making it a livable neighborhood,” Case-Halferty said. “If we didn’t love it, we wouldn’t live here.”

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