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TMCNet:  Stadium traffic in spotlight: Financing deal will fix roads around the mall.

[July 22, 2008]

Stadium traffic in spotlight: Financing deal will fix roads around the mall.

(Columbia Daily Tribune (Columbia, MO) (KRT) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jul. 22--To come up with about $20 million needed to expand the north end of Stadium Boulevard from four lanes to six, the Columbia City Council has approved a funding agreement using contributions from three special sales tax districts in the Columbia Mall area.

The project will widen and improve access to Stadium between Broadway and Interstate 70 to alleviate traffic congestion in the area.

Although Stadium falls under the jurisdiction of the Missouri Department of Transportation, City Manager Bill Watkins said, the state does not have the money to fund the full amount of the project but has pledged $9 million.

The remaining $10.8 million will come from three transportation development districts, or TDDs, along the road. Shoppes at Stadium and the Stadium Corridor TDDs were formed in 2004, and the city encouraged the formation of the Columbia Mall TDD in 2007 to help pay its share of road improvements in the area. Each of the TDDs levies an additional half-cent sales tax for purchases within the district.

The plan, Watkins told the council last night, is for the city to take out a loan from the state-owned Missouri Transportation Finance Corp. at 3.92 percent interest for the $10.8 million. The TDDs will then repay the loan over 10 years as it collects sales taxes.

The city has begun the preliminary design for the road using more than $1 million in TDD sales tax money already collected and is slated to begin construction in 2012, according to the city's capital improvement plan.

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser asked Watkins whether the city was taking slumping sales tax revenue into account with its timeline for the project.

"The construction will be done in phases, done as a pay-as-you-go; it will be done in pieces as funding becomes available," Watkins said. "My goal, because it will be a mess, is to try to minimize the disruption of construction along the Stadium corridor itself."

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala asked whether the agreement means the project includes no money from city taxpayers.

"That depends if you count TDD sales taxes as city money, which I do," Watkins said. "But the point is it doesn't come from the city's capital budget."

Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said people should make no mistake: The project is still funded using all taxpayer money, whether it's collected through TDD sales tax revenue or through state tax money that funds MoDOT.

Of the $19.8 million, $935,000 will go to help the Columbia Mall reconstruct access and parking on the west side of Stadium. Watkins said the mall's entrance off Bernadette Drive will be rearranged when the street is expanded, which will force the mall to redo some parking on that side and compensate businesses for parking spaces lost.

The project also will revamp intersections along the corridor, including at Worley and Ash streets.

Watkins said the Columbia Mall district has approved the amended agreement and the Stadium Shoppes district has voiced approval, although it has not formally voted yet. Watkins said the city is still discussing the agreement with the Stadium Corridor TDD.


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