Highway 47 Project May Have Chance - The Missourian: County

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Highway 47 Project May Have Chance

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Posted: Saturday, April 27, 2013 8:45 pm

New life may have been breathed into a bill that could provide funding to widen Highway 47 in Franklin County.

Last week, members of the Highway 47 Corridor Committee were worried that a bill to put a 1-cent transportation sales tax on the ballot for voters to decide may have been destined for failure.

But on Thursday, State Rep. Dave Hinson, R-St. Clair, said the bill now has a chance.

The committee became worried about the bill after Speaker of the House Tim Jones said he would not even bring the matter to the House floor unless 82 members of the Republican Caucus were in support of it.

Hinson told The Missourian Thursday that the needed support may have been acquired.

“We are very close,” Hinson said.

The Senate has already approved the bill, and now it only needs to pass the House and get the governor’s signature.

Hinson says he expects it to be on the House floor next week for a debate.

The Highway 47 Corridor Committee, which has members from Franklin County, St. Clair, Union and Washington, says it needs the revenue from the proposed 1-cent transportation sales tax to fund the expansion of the corridor.

In its meeting this month, the committee decided to send a joint letter to House officials, urging support for the tax. Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer penned the letter.

“It is critical that MoDOT receives additional revenue to improve the congestion and safety concerns that plague our current state highway system,” Griesheimer’s letter states.

Griesheimer said Tuesday that he did not expect much response from his letter, saying, “They’ve got a lot of other pressing issues.”

And time is running out in the legislative session, which ends May 17.

Highway 47 carries about 17,000 vehicles daily in Franklin County and is a direct link to Interstate 44, the letter says.

“We (committee members) share a mutual interest in seeing this portion of Highway 47 upgraded due to safety and congestion concerns that have existed for a number of years,” the letter adds.

If the bill fails, the project to widen the corridor is pretty much dead for the time being, Griesheimer said.

If that happens, “It’s all over but the crying,” he added.

The bill itself would not even put the tax on the books but just allow voters to decide whether a 1-cent transportation sales tax should be levied for 10 years. The tax, which would generate an estimated $7.9 billion over a decade, is the major funding source that the local committee is banking on to fund improvements to Highway 47.

One idea is to make Highway 47 four lanes between Washington and St. Clair to improve traffic flow and reduce accidents.

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