Several Labadie farmers and property owners are worried about a plan to narrow a downtown street in their community.
They think it will make it difficult for them to move their farm equipment along Front Street, especially when heavy machinery from the nearby Ameren power plant is also coming through.
“This has not been thought out,” said Clarence Patke during a meeting with county officials Wednesday.
The project they are worried about is called Labadie Great Streets, which is expected to be done this spring.
Labadie farmer and property owner Jim Siess said he worries about possible collisions on the proposed narrow roadway.
“It’s just not safe,” he said, adding that it will hold up traffic.
Boles Fire Chief Jim Casey, whose department covers Labadie, said emergency equipment could make it through the narrow street. But he said he would like to have more room, and if the street is narrowed to 21 feet, he would suggest not allowing parking on the street.
The entire project will be on a 600-foot stretch of Front Street from Highway T to Pacific Street.
The road narrowing will be on about a 150-200-foot length of the project, and John Becker, who lives east of Labadie, is bothered by the idea.
“Why take a viable, usable road and make a substandard road out of it?” Becker asked.
The section of road must be narrowed to accommodate fuel tanks at the Labadie Market, said Franklin County Highway Administrator Eva Gadcke.
Narrowing the street will also slow down motorists, Gadcke said, noting that a big part of the Great Streets project is to encourage pedestrian traffic.
Gadcke said the hope is that the project will generate additional foot traffic in the area to spur business development.
“We want the shops to open back up,” she said.
The plan is to narrow the section of roadway from its current width, which is at least 23 feet, to about 21 feet.
“You need all the room you can get, and 21 feet I don’t think is enough,” Siess said.
County Commissioner John Griesheimer agreed with the farmers that narrowing the street is a bad idea.
But county officials say they may not be able to change the design, especially since the project is being heavily funded with federal dollars through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
The East-West Gateway organization is reluctant to change the design that has been approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation and federal highway officials, Gadcke said.
Griesheimer said county officials will still try to convince the East-West Gateway Council of Governments to not narrow the street.
The complaints from the farmers and other property owners could carry weight when it comes to going back to the negotiating table over the design, Gadcke said
But Griesheimer is not very optimistic for success, saying he is not going to give any “false hope.”
The total project cost is about $1 million with 80 percent being funded by the federal government and the rest by Franklin County.
A new trail, sidewalk, green space, lighting and benches are among the improvements that the project would bring. Improving drainage is also a big part of the project.
Any changes to the design would have to be approved by the Missouri Department of Transportation.