Franklin County Commissioner Tim Brinker said he supports committing up to $100,000 of taxpayer money for a study of the Highway 47 corridor between Washington and St. Clair.
He said the estimated cost of such a study is $200,000, and he thinks the county should take the lead in getting the review done.
The municipalities of Washington, Union and St. Clair could work together to cover the remaining $100,000 cost, Brinker said.
“We want everyone to have a little skin in the game,” Brinker said.
Initial discussion of getting a buy-in from the local municipalities for the project has been positive, Brinker said.
Second District County Commissioner Mike Schatz said he thinks the study would be a “viable investment,” but the commission will have to sit down with highway department officials to determine where the money can come from.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said he also supports the county paying for half of the study if the funding is available. He added that the study could be done over a couple of years to help the county absorb the cost.
The county could possibly fund its portion of the study out of its road and bridge budget, Brinker said. Coming up with the needed money may require the county to put off paving some roads that have yet to be completed from the Pave the County program, Brinker said.
He said he realizes that it may make some people upset if their roads are not paved, but Brinker said county funds should be used in areas that benefit the most residents.
Whereas paving a county road may help those who live along it, moving forward with making Highway 47 four lanes would impact thousands, Brinker said.
As far as cutting road paving funding to pay for the study, Schatz said he realizes some residents expect certain work to be done.
Schatz added that he does not want the county to run too short on road funds, noting that roads that have already been paved must be maintained.
Doing the study is necessary if the county wants to expand the Highway 47 corridor, Griesheimer said.
The Highway 47 Corridor Committee recently appointed a subcommittee, which Brinker sits on, to begin meeting with consultants about what should be done to improve the corridor.
Since then, the subcommittee has met with several consultants, and Brinker said the findings from the meetings are expected to be discussed during the next Highway 47 Corridor Committee meeting April 17 at 1:30 p.m. in the training room of the county government building in Union.
If the study is done, Brinker said it would look at issues such as traffic counts, right of way matters and construction plans.
He hopes the study can start this year.
Ideas to improve congestion along the corridor include making it four lanes between Washington and St. Clair. Another idea is to only make the section between Washington and Union four lanes and the stretch between Union and St. Clair a two-lane “super two” road, which has limited access points to keep traffic moving.
Brinker did not have an estimate of what it may cost to construct the improved corridor, but he said the project would heavily hinge on the approval of a proposed statewide 1-cent transportation sales tax that is being debated in the Legislature.
Even if the tax is approved by the Legislature, it would not take effect unless the state’s voters approved the tax, which likely would be on the ballot in November 2014.
If passed, the tax would generate an estimated $7.9 billion over its 10-year lifespan.
But even if the tax does not pass, Brinker said having the study done will still be of value because other state and federal funding could become available.
And if the tax does pass, it will be to Franklin County’s advantage to have the study already done, so the project can go ahead and get under way once revenue from the tax starts rolling in, Brinker added.