St. Clair officials are going to see how much money, if any, will be available to chip in to help fund an environmental assessment of the Highway 47 corridor between St. Clair and Washington — next year.
The board of aldermen decided last week to wait until the 2014 budgeting process begins to see if there will be a projection of any dollar amount that can be put toward the study at that time.
Previously, the city discussed whether it could find $50,000 this year to help pay for the study after a committee formed to study the highway expansion project requested the money.
“We just don’t have the money,” Mayor Ron Blum said.
City Administrator Rick Childers told the board of aldermen that each of the entities involved — Franklin County, Washington, Union and St. Clair — have been asked to pitch in an equal amount of money so the $200,000 study can be done. It appears the other three entities have agreed.
“Rick and I attended a (recent) meeting,” Blum told the board on June 17. “The topic of widening Highway 47 is still on the table. There was a request from the (Highway 47 Corridor) committee to proceed with the environmental study.”
The argument local officials have made about equally sharing the costs of the study center on St. Clair having far less general revenue than the other three entities to work from and that the highway expansion would have the least amount of benefit to the city. Therefore, the city should be required to chip in a lesser amount of money for the study, they said.
The Highway 47 Corridor Committee has been looking into seeing if the roadway can be widened to four lanes between St. Clair and Washington to ease vehicle congestion and improve traffic flow.
The project has hit financial snags and has not been deemed a priority by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
On top of that, a bill to put a sales tax on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide died during this year’s legislative session. Initially, the proposal was for a 1-cent transportation tax over 10 years.
Officials have estimated that a 1-cent tax would generate about $7.9 billion over 10 years.
The Highway 47 Corridor Committee is hoping the tax could provide the funding needed to expand Highway 47 between Washington and St. Clair. The committee was hoping to get some of the preliminary environmental studies done so the project would be ready to go under construction once funding became available.
MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner has said there is value in doing some preliminary environmental studies on expanding the road. Such a study would continue to be useful for years to come, she said. The committee says it needs the revenue from the proposed transportation sales tax to fund the expansion of the corridor. But, it also needs money for the assessment study first.
“The committee has requested a pledge of funds from the cities of St. Clair, Union and Washington and from Franklin County, in the amount of $50,000 from each entity,” Childers said during previous meetings. “These funds will provide the basis for requesting qualifications, selecting an appropriate firm and negotiating a contract.”