It was one of those landmark city decisions, barely noticed by some, but millions of future federal dollars were at stake.
That decision was whether to form an area transportation committee, the Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization (CATSO). Under the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1962 and the Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964, any city with a population greater than 50,000 people had to have such a committee. Columbia was clearly going to reach that size by the 1970 census, or they wouldn’t get federal funds for transportation needs, including buses, bridges, roads, airport improvements, non-motorized facilities and “enhancement” projects, such as trails. Vital transportation infrastructure would simply not exist in Columbia today if we hadn’t formed such a committee.
In those days, prior to establishing the City Planning Department, the Public Works Department handled planning duties. I was appointed acting planning director in 1964, a post I held concurrently with my Public Works director position until 1967. This move followed two events: the defeat of a ballot proposal that would have established the second urban renewal area in our central city and the resignation of our first planning director, Hiram Martin.
In addition to setting up a system of fallout shelters in response to the recent Cuban Missile Crisis, my two other first assignments were to form CATSO and to update the 1935 City Master Plan using no federal funds. The thoroughfare section of the master plan was combined with the CATSO plan. Robert Maiden, a planner with consultant Hare & Hare of Kansas City, along with a citizen committee, helped us prepare the amendment to the thoroughfare plan, which was processed through the Planning and Zoning Commission.
CATSO began by generating the 1964 Columbia Area Transportation Study, which attempted to project Columbia’s transportation needs 20 years into the future. J.H. Longwell was mayor, and Don F. Allard was city manager at the time.
The first CATSO Coordinating Committee set the parameters of the study and included three city positions: Allard, the city manager, and me, as both the city’s director of Public Works and acting Planning Department director. John G. Orhn, planning engineer for the Bureau of Public Roads, served as the secretary for the group. Other members of the committee included state Highway Division engineers James R. Turner and Lyle V. McLaughlin as well as Raymond H. Lahmeyer, the district engineer with the Highway Department.
The Coordinating Committee is responsible for approving disposal of all federally funded projects given to the city for its transportation needs. Its role was expanded and further codified in a 1974 memorandum of understanding between the parties involved, which included Mayor Bob Pugh, Presiding County Judge Bob Brown, Larry E. Mead of the Mid-Missouri Council of Governments, and representatives of the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Highway Department’s commission. This document—approved by Governor Kit Bond, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and MODOT—remains in effect today.
Over the years, CATSO played a role in getting federal funding for all of Columbia’s urban highways, including improvements to U.S. Highway 63, Interstate 70, Stadium Boulevard, College Avenue and Providence Road. Federal money funneled through CATSO brought improvements to highway interchanges, county bridges and the airport. It paid to build the part of the Grissum maintenance building related to buses on the old ball field near the power plant. It also paid for air conditioned city buses, some OATS buses and community enhancement projects such as trails, sidewalks and handicapped facilities.
CATSO generates two main documents: the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), which is approved every three years and updated annually, and the Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP), which is approved every year. The TIP is a program management tool for structuring transportation-related projects. The first of the three years included a list of projects with a plan for funding through local match money from MODOT, the city, the county or the agency served. Usually Columbians are eager for the improvements approved in the TIP and UPWP, but sometimes the public has rejected previously approved projects, such as the widening of West Broadway, 80 percent of which federal money would have paid for.
Today, CATSO is involved in improving the Wabash city bus depot, studies for the extension of Stadium to I-70, the Highway 63/Gans Road interchange, the railroad separation project on the Highway 63 crossing near Paris Road, and many other projects. The $25 million non-motorized grant for pedways and sidewalks also is approved through CATSO. The current one-year plan for aviation, highway, transit, rail, enhancement and non-motorized projects totals over $42.5 million and the three-year plan over $110 million.
Voting membership of the CATSO Coordinating Committee has expanded to include, from the city staff, City Manager Bill Watkins (as committee chair), Mayor Darwin Hindman, Public Works Director John Glascock and Planning Director Tim Teddy. Southern Boone County Commissioner Skip Elkin and Boone County Public Works Director David Mink are also members, along with MODOT Planning Liaison Mike Henderson, District Engineer Roger Schwartz and Multi-Modal Operations Director Brian Weiler. Non-voting members include Brad McMahon of the Federal Highway Administration, Regional Director Mokhtee Ahmad of the Federal Transit Administration, Regional Administrator Christopher Blum of the Federal Aviation Administration, Dr. Cynthia J. Orndoff of the Missouri General Assembly, Executive Director Edward Seigmund of the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission and Boone County Sheriff Dewayne Carey. Mitch Skov of the City Planning Department provides staff support for CATSO.
In addition to the CATSO Coordinating Committee, the organization includes a Technical Committee, which makes recommendations to the Coordinating Committee. City, county, university and MODOT agencies that have jurisdiction within the geographic area send priority lists to the technical committee, which studies and coordinates action between the agencies. The governing body of each agency must approve the plan, including our city council, county commission, MODOT and the state and federal government.
The CATSO Technical Committee consists of the city’s planning director, chief engineer, traffic engineer, transportation manager and senior planner; the county public works director, planning director and design engineer; and MODOT’s area engineer, planning engineer, and transit and multi-modal operations administrator. Ex-officio members of the Technical Committee include Columbia’s police chief, the county sheriff, the university’s parking operations manager and representatives of the Federal Transit Authority and Federal Highway Administration.
The City Planning and Development Department provides the necessary staff support for both committees. Costs for the service are paid through federal planning funds.
As its membership has grown, CATSO also has grown in importance. From a small beginning in the 1960s, CATSO has grown into a large local public organization that makes important government decisions about transportation for our growing metropolitan area and how that area uses federal dollars. Equally important, CATSO has provided a framework for local, state and federal government to work together to plan and implement transportation programs and projects.
It was a privilege to have been a part of CATSO from the beginning and to have served as its chair for 20 years.