Gloomy news about a bill that would generate revenue for road projects has a local committee on edge.
“It’s very concerning,” said Judy Wagner, area engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Wagner, who attended a meeting of the Highway 47 Corridor Committee Wednesday, said widening the critical Franklin County traffic artery cannot be done without an additional revenue source.
And the revenue source that committee members are banking on is a bill in the Legislature that may be doomed.
House Speaker Tim Jones said he is unlikely to bring the proposed 1-cent transportation sales tax to the House floor unless at least 82 of the 110 members of the House Republican Caucus support the bill, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Tuesday.
Money at Risk
Committee members Wednesday decided to send a joint letter to House leadership officials, urging support for the tax.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer, who sits on the committee, said he would write the letter.
Griesheimer noted that if the bill cannot get passed in a non-election year that it will especially have problems in an election year. He said that is because some members of the House don’t want to vote for a tax increase.
The tax would be on the books for 10 years, with the revenue going toward enhancing the state’s transportation system. Officials estimate that the tax would generate about $7.9 billion over the 10 years.
If the bill passes, it would simply put the one-cent transportation sales tax on the ballot for the people to vote on.
The Highway 47 Corridor Committee, which has members from local cities and the county, hopes the tax can provide the funding needed to expand Highway 47 between Washington and St. Clair. Making the roadway four lanes for the whole stretch is one idea.
The committee was hoping to get some of the preliminary environmental studies done so the project would be ready to go under construction once funding became available.
Even if the tax fails, Wagner said there is still value in doing some preliminary environmental studies on expanding Highway 47. Such a study would continue to be useful for years to come, she said.
In fact, some committee members recently held preliminary discussions with several consultants about what would be involved in conducting an environmental study for the project.
It would cost about $200,000 to have the first portion of the environmental study done, and the committee has discussed dividing that cost amongst Franklin County, St. Clair, Washington and Union.
First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker has said that he would be in favor of the county putting up $100,000 of the study cost and letting the three cities split the rest. But on Wednesday, the committee discussed each entity putting up $50,000.
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy said she does not expect it will be a problem for her city to provide $50,000 for the study.
Union City Administrator Russell Rost said his city’s Board of Aldermen has already approved giving $50,000 for the study.
The city of St. Clair has still not decided whether it will put money up for the study, said City Administrator Rick Childers.
“That’s a decision for the board of aldermen,” he said, adding that he expects it will be addressed May 6.
Wagner said she will need official letters of commitment from the entities in terms of how much money they are willing to put toward the study.
MoDOT would reimburse the local entities for their contribution to the study if the widening project happens, Wagner said.
FCG 47 Corridor 4-20-13