And then there were three.
Franklin County, the city of Union and Union Special Road District officials met last week and have agreed to move forward with the daunting task of making Highway 47 safer.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said the meeting was very good and all parties want to move forward with investigating what funding sources may be available.
It has been the general consensus that the biggest problem area in the 13-mile Highway 47 corridor is the intersection of Highways 47 and 50 in the heart of Union and it will be dealt with first.
The meeting was the result of a meeting earlier this month where the cities of St. Clair and Washington announced they will financially sit out the initial stages of the Highway 47 project.
“We will develop a memorandum of understanding, or agreement between the three agencies,” Brinker said. “The next step would be to go out and get a grant writer to assist us in acquiring any and all funds available.”
Although all three governmental agencies have agreed to contribute financially to the multimillion dollar, multiyear project, it is uncertain at what level.
Although Franklin County has the deepest pockets, Brinker said it also has higher expenditures than Union.
“Union will be taking the lead on this, since it is in their town,” Brinker said. “It’s a Catch-22. We don’t know how much we will all have to give until we know how much grant money we can get. They have also done this before and seem to know what they are doing.”
Brinker said Union taking the lead on the project is a good thing.
“The biggest cost of the entire project will be this section,” Brinker said. “Although it is in Franklin County and we will help in any way, this gives them local control.”
The estimated project cost to eliminate the traffic congestion at Highways 47 and 50 and relocate the railroad bridge near County Farm Road is $22 million.
That number could be split in half to $11 million if Union and Franklin County are successful in obtaining cost-share funds from the state of Missouri.
Union City Administrator Russell Rost estimates it would break down to about $3.5 million needed from his city, Franklin County and the Union Special Road District if they agreed to join in the project.
He added much of the funding from Union would hopefully come from grants and may take two or three budget years.
A contract was approved in August 2017 by the county’s Highway 47 committee to pay St. Louis-based Lochmueller Group $185,000 to conduct an analysis of the Highway 47 corridor from Washington to St. Clair.
Franklin County pledged $75,000, the cities of Union and Washington both pledged $50,000, and the Union and Washington Special Road districts put in $5,000 each to fund the study. St. Clair did not contribute financially.
The study presents several options to improve the corridor and the general consensus of all parties involved would be to eventually make the 13-mile stretch a four-lane divided highway.
Estimated costs would be about $70 million.
St. Clair City Administrator Travis Dierker said interest in the Union project in his community and with his aldermen is mixed and said it could be years before the overall $70 million widening project even reaches St. Clair.
“We are sure there is a need, but at this point we don’t want to jump too far ahead,” Dierker said.
Washington City Administrator Darren Lamb echoed his southern counterpart’s sentiments that since Washington also is at an extreme end of the corridor, he would rather sit back and let Union get its project done first before committing funds.
“It could be 10 years before the project even gets close to Washington,” Lamb said. “A more pressing priority for us now is keeping Highway 47 above flood level on the north side of the new bridge in Warren County.”
Brinker says it may take up to a year to determine what if any grant funding for the Union section of the project may garner and he respects the positions of Washington and St. Clair.
He also doesn’t rule out their help if needed.
“This is a county of understanding and we are surrounded by regionally minded folk,” Brinker said. “If it came down to it and a little more money was needed to push the project over the top, we could address that with the cities. As of now we will see what we can fulfill.”
A meeting of the Franklin County Highway 47 Committee is scheduled for Wednesday and these latest developments will be discussed.