The city of St. Clair

St. Clair’s board of aldermen on Monday agreed to set aside $25,000 in the city’s 2014 budget to help fund a study targeting the Highway 47 corridor from St. Clair to Washington.

St. Clair is the last entity to agree to help fund the environmental study that is one of the first steps that need to be taken before the road can be widened to four lanes.

Judy Wagner, Missouri Department of Transportation area engineer for Franklin and Jefferson counties, has said the commitments from local communities to fund the study will do a lot to raise the priority level for future improvements.

Officials from Washington, Union and Franklin County already have said they will commit $50,000 toward the study, and the Washington Special Road District has pledged $5,000.

When the study first was discussed, the cost was estimated at $200,000.

“MoDOT would like to initiate the environmental studies for the Highway 47 upgrades and is requesting letters of commitment from the involved entities,” Childers said during Monday’s board meeting. “This would be the full amount of our commitment.”

Originally, St. Clair was asked to commit to $50,000 to help fund the study — the same as Washington, Union and Franklin County. However, Childers, Mayor Ron Blum and the aldermen have stated in previous meetings that St. Clair cannot afford that dollar amount.

“We initially were requested to provide $50,000,” Childers said. “But during our last budget workshop, we discussed $25,000.”

City officials have conducted a pair of workshops in recent months as they work on preparing the 2014 budget. The $25,000 to help fund the study would come out of the general fund next year.

“They’re just asking for a letter of commitment at this point,” Blum said of MoDOT’s request for the money. “It will come out of the 2014 budget.”

Washington, Union, Franklin County and the Washington Special Road District already have written their letters of commitment and sent them to MoDOT.

St. Clair will now do the same.

The study is required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Washington City Administrator Jim Briggs said he spoke with Blum during the recent Missouri Municipal League meeting, and Blum told him at that time that his board of aldermen had tentatively agreed to allocate $25,000 toward the study.

Highway Expansion

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 said.

“But when we get local funds committed toward the project, it makes it a higher priority,” Wagner said in a previous Missourian story. “Because the local participation is 100 percent, that pushes it even higher on the priority list.”

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.

Initiative Petition

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.

— Missourian Managing Editor Ed Pruneau contributed to this story.