A committee studying improvements on Missouri Highway 47 decided on Wednesday to start meeting with consultants about plans to expand the corridor.

A subcommittee has been formed to line up meetings with consultants to discuss what studies may need to be done to prepare for future improvements.

Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy said she thinks meeting with the consultants is a step forward in getting Highway 47 improved to relieve congestion between Washington and St. Clair.

Options include making the section between Washington and Union four lanes.

The section between St. Clair and Union could be made a “super two” road, which would have limited access points to allow for faster speeds.

A project of this size will likely require an environmental assessment and an operational study.

If those studies can start moving ahead, then officials will be ready to move forward with construction as soon as funding becomes available.

“It’s a good time to get this stuff rolling,” Lucy said.

Judy Wagner, Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer, agreed that “it’s smart to start getting ideas on what we want to do.”

Wagner added, “There are lots of consultants that are willing to come out and talk to this group.”

Funding for the widening of Highway 47 could soon become available if the Legislature passes a bill to put a 1-cent transportation tax before voters.

If the bill passes, the issue would likely be on the ballot before voters Nov. 14.

The Highway 47 Committee on Wednesday also formally endorsed the 1-cent transportation sales tax proposal in the Legislature. The proposed tax would generate about $7.9 billion over the 10-year life of the tax statewide.

With the needed studies done in advance, widening Highway 47 between Washington and Union could possibly be done by 2018 if the 1-cent tax is approved, said city of Washington Administrator Jim Briggs.

“If the state’s able to get some funding in the next couple of years, we’d like to be ready to go to be one of the first projects out of the chute,” Briggs said.

The meetings with the consultants will help the Highway 47 Committee better understand how the preliminary studies for the project should be approached and what they may cost, Briggs added.

The subcommittee may meet with three to four consulting firms, he said.

Once an idea of how much the studies will cost is known, then communities within the county can start looking at ways to partner to pay for those studies, Briggs said.

At the committee meeting Wednesday, Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said Franklin County would likely support such an effort.

Wagner said the operational study could cost more than $100,000 depending on how much of the corridor was looked at.

The operational study, which would identify needs along the corridor, could actually be done before it is even known if the tax passes, Briggs said. Even if the tax fails, this study can still be used down the road, he said.

However, Briggs said an environmental assessment likely would not be done until a funding source was lined up.

The subcommittee will consist of Lucy, Briggs, First District County Commissioner Tim Brinker, St. Clair Mayor Ron Blum, Union Mayor Mike Livengood, Washington citizen representative Bob Jones and St. Clair citizen representative Gary Banderman.