Enough Rolla councilmen questioned the need to spend $30,000 at Monday’s meeting on a consulting firm that specializes in “complete streets” strategies that Mayor Lou Magdits IV suggested waiting awhile before voting on the ordinance that would authorize the contract with Alta Planning + Design Inc.

Enough Rolla councilmen questioned the need to spend $30,000 at Monday’s meeting on a consulting firm that specializes in “complete streets” strategies that Mayor Lou Magdits IV suggested waiting awhile before voting on the ordinance that would authorize the contract with Alta Planning + Design Inc.
“Come back in two weeks,” Magdits told Public Works Director Steve Hargis, who fended off questions and criticism about the plan to hire the Chesterfield engineering company to develop a formal complete streets policy and implementation strategy for the city of Rolla at a cost of $30,000.
In his written presentation at the council meeting two weeks ago when the first reading of the ordinance was heard, Hargis said the “strategy” is “essential” for the city government to develop capital improvement plans for the Westside Market transportation development district, sidewalks throughout the city, multi-use trails, bicycle routes, safe routes to schools and on-street and off-street parking.
Monday night in his oral presentation, Hargis stressed that Alta Planning would go beyond improvements for handicapped accessibility and look at “more kinds of things that make a street livable.” That includes use by bicyclists and pedestrians, maybe even mass transit.
He said the consulting firm would “listen to everyone using our transportation system” as the engineers gather information to be used in writing the “strategy” document.
Ward 2 Councilman Matthew Miller asked if the strategy document would cover the entire city, and Hargis said it would.
“I would say we are going to look at it from a network standpoint,” Hargis said, meaning that the plan would, for instance, devise a plan for bicycling throughout the city and walking on sidewalks throughout the city.
In further questioning, Hargis said HNTB and Alta had submitted proposals for a citywide complete streets strategy. HNTB has already been hired for a transportation study that includes a complete streets strategy for State Highway 72 and U.S. Highway 63 and adjacent streets in an effort to find ways to diminish vehicular traffic around the Missouri University of Science and Technology while funneling traffic from throughout the city to the proposed Westside Market site near the Kingshighway overpass at the 184-mile marker of Interstate 44.
Hargis said the proposals did not include bids, and he chose Alta because the company “specializes in public involvement.” He added that Alta’s proposal to do the work for $30,000 is “within $1,000 of what I thought it should cost.”
Ward 5 Councilman Brian Woolley said that before he would vote for such a plan, “I want to be convinced we need the study.” He read passages from the Alta proposal such as this one: “The Rolla complete streets strategy aims to assist in addressing active transportation integrated with motor vehicle traffic objectives that will coordinate development of complete streets policies and implementable active transportation strategies allowing integration with new development, the university and motor vehicle travel throughout the city.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Woolley said, and followed up with a couple more passages full of language that might be described as “engineering-ese.”
Woolley concluded, “I’ve read that thing several times. I have no idea what we would be paying $30,000 for.”
Ward 4 Councilman Don Morris tried to give Hargis an opportunity to put the need for the study onto the federal government.
“Steve, is this what we have to do to make sure we get our federal money?” he asked.
Hargis said that for handicapped accessibility, “that would be one element.”
Ward 3 Councilman Kelly Long asked if the study of traffic flow would have a “holistic look,” and Hargis said it would, indeed, by looking at various factors such as on-street parking, sidewalks and bicycling as well as vehicular traffic.
Hargis said the Alta company would reach out “to find out what the community wants.”
The study would be educational for the public works staff by showing what other communities are doing to make their streets more livable for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Noting that the community is divided on the question of bicycling, Magdits asked Hargis to talk about some of the other aspects of the study besides bicycles, such as the public meetings.
Hargis said there would be public meetings, for instance, with the university because students have already indicated “they want bike paths.”
Ward 2 Councilman Matthew Crowell, noting that the university is full of engineers and engineering students, asked why the city couldn’t do the study “on our own” with the involvement of S&T.
Hargis said, “Because this company (Alta) has done this work before and I haven’t.”
Ward 6 Councilman Walt Bowe asked what would happen once the consulting firm identifies problems or needs. “We don’t have money to fix them,” he said.
Ward 5 Councilman Jimmy Dale Williams said many studies have been done in the past, only to be shelved to gather dust. “How many studies do we have on the shelf?” he asked.
But Hargis said this study would be like the stormwater study; it will remain on the shelf, but it will be used for 20-30 years.
Magdits said there is a document at Rolla City Hall that explains the complete streets concept and he asked City Administrator John Butz to make sure all councilmen have access to that explanatory document so they can study it before the next council meeting in two weeks when the ordinance is read for the final time and a vote is taken.