Headlines and hearings misleading the public
COLUMBIA, 2/16/13 (Beat Byte) -- News stories like the one linked here from KOMU irk Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Columbia area engineer Mike Schupp.
With "MoDOT project" and "MoDOT plans to build" splashed all over media headlines and public hearings about a controversial plan to widen Providence Rd. near the Grasslands, Schupp says he's been approached countless times by members of the public confused about who and what is driving the project.
"Last Wednesday I heard from a gentleman who thought this was a MoDOT project," Schupp told the Heart Beat. "I clarified that the [Providence Improvement Project or PIP] is a city of Columbia project. But that's what people are hearing. That it's a MoDOT project. I read a KOMU story about it where everywhere I read the word 'MoDOT' I would have inserted 'city of Columbia.'"
Providence Road is a state highway with some state-mandated requirements, Schupp said. But to blame MoDOT for controversial elements of a city plan isn't fair. "Providence is a state road, but improving access in and out of the Grasslands is a city project," Schupp said. "We have a number one requirement that left turns in and out of the Grasslands be restricted to prevent cars from crossing lanes and causing bottlenecks and collisions. But the plans to meet that requirement are entirely the city's."
City documents about the plan bear out Schupp's claim. A city staff report from a November 19 City Council meeting barely mentions MoDOT. The cost figures are "CITY'S ESTIMATE," the documents say. Private engineers retained to work on the project come via public works director John Glascock's office. Plans, cost estimates, contact sheets, and other communications are signed "BY: R. Kaufmann, Columbia Public Works" and city manager "Mike Matthes."

What's more, the state agency hasn't sent representatives to testify at local public hearings, nor have they been asked to testify.
"It wouldn't be appropriate," Schupp told the Heart Beat. "Those meetings are the city's business, conducted by departments that are internal to city government."
Clear that MoDOT and City Hall "are partners" in PIP, Schupp characterized MoDOT's portion of the partnership as similar to "advise and consent." City engineers design a plan and so long as it meets MoDOT safety requirements, the state agency will generally approve it. "We are okay with the Providence plan so long as left turns are restricted," Schupp said.
The Grasslands neighborhood empties onto Providence through three streets -- Brandon, Bingham, and Burnam -- and eight driveways that abut the roadway. Left turns from Brandon and Bingham could cause safety problems.
Though the plan's more controversial aspects -- demolition of 8 stately and/or historic homes; ugly concrete barriers and yellow "delineators" to prevent turning -- are acceptable to MoDOT, that's not the same as saying they came from MoDOT, Schupp emphasized. The public, he says, has been misled if they think otherwise.
Asked if MoDOT would support a plan to take land from the other side of Providence -- much of it owned by Mizzou and the Greek student life community -- Schupp said he recently learned that a bank of electric wires and cables is under the pavement on that side of the street. To relocate them, he explained, "would involve an exorbitant amount of money."

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