Commitments from local communities to fund a study of the Highway 47 corridor, from Washington to St. Clair, will do a lot to raise the priority level for future improvements, a Missouri Department of Transportation official said.
Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer for Franklin and Jefferson counties, said Monday that she has received letters from four entities — Franklin County, the cities of Washington and Union, and the Washington Special Road District — agreeing to provide funds for the preliminary study for corridor improvements.
She said she’s still waiting for a letter from the city of St. Clair regarding its participation.
“I think we do have enough to go out for bids for the NEPA study,” Wagner told members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee.
The study is required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
City Administrator Jim Briggs said he spoke with St. Clair Mayor Ron Blum at the recent Missouri Municipal League meeting and Blum told him that the board of aldermen had tentatively agreed to allocate $25,000 toward the study.
The money is proposed to be included in the next St. Clair city budget which will be up for adoption at the end of the year, St. Clair City Administrator Rick Childers told The Missourian.
Plans to widen Highway 47 to four lanes is still listed in the state’s long-range plan as an “illustrative” project with no funding available until after 2040, Wagner noted.
“But when we get local funds committed toward the project, it makes it a higher priority,” Wagner said. “Because the local participation is 100 percent, that pushes it even higher on the priority list.”
The county, Washington and Union have pledged $50,000 each toward the cost of the study and the special road district has agreed to pay $5,000.
The Highway 47 Corridor Committee, which includes representatives from the county, all three cities and the road district, is guiding the process.
Actual construction still could be years away but Wagner pointed to the importance of having the NEPA study ready in case transportation funds become available.
The operational phase of the study will focus on the entire corridor and look at what types of improvements are needed. The second phase will study any environmental impacts of the project.
Wagner noted that a group known as Missourians for Safe Transportation and New Jobs is working to obtain signatures for an initiative petition that would ask voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax for major improvement projects.
The goal is to place the tax issue on the November 2014 ballot, she said.
The petition indicates that the tax, if approved, would have a 10-year sunset provision. Also, 5 percent of revenue raised would go to counties, another 5 percent to cities, and 90 percent would be earmarked for major statewide improvements like rebuilding Interstate 70 across Missouri.
It’s the same measure that the Missouri Legislature killed in the last session, Wagner said.