Union aldermen expressed an initial concern about funding an environmental study related to the proposed Highway 47 expansion project.
At Monday’s parks, buildings, development and public services committee meeting aldermen were briefed about two recent Franklin County Highway 47 corridor committee meetings.
A recent push by Franklin County Commissioner Tim Brinker has stirred discussions about potential Highway 47 improvements. City Administrator Russell Rost said Brinker has been doing a lot of advocacy work and is trying to move the project forward.
The goal is to make a number of improvements, including lane additions and realignment at Highway 47 and Highway 50 in Union. The price tag is still unknown, but any work would be a cost share between the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), Franklin County and the municipalities along Highway 47 (Washington, Union and St. Clair).
Rost said at the May Highway 47 meeting, the idea was pushed to fund an environmental study. The study is needed to verify what wildlife is in the area and will let builders know what, if anything, can be constructed in certain areas.
Rost said the study is required for any work to be done on Highway 47. However, there is concern about the timing. The study has an expiration date.
Rost said that means that if the project isn’t underway in the time frame, the study would have to be done again. With funding for the entire project still up in the air, he said MoDOT is unsure if it would be a good idea to push the study forward.
A big issue is the study is not cheap. Rost said it could cost between $600,000 and $1.5 million.
Assistant City Administrator James Schmieder said the Highway 47 committee talked about Union taking on the bulk of the funding for the study.
Schmieder said discussions at the meeting had Union contributing around 40 percent of the total cost of the study. He said he was concerned that percentage could increase if other municipalities pulled out of funding.
If that’s the case, the city could be on the hook for a lot of money.
“That can be a bit of a pill to swallow,” Schmieder said.
With MoDOT saying the project might not get started for another 20 years, Schmieder said he didn’t know if it made sense to push forward a study with an expiration date.
Rost said there already is a good study in place that outlines what needs to be done. He said the environmental study could help the decision-making process by possibly eliminating options that can’t be utilized for environmental reasons.
For the most part, he said, funding the study now felt like putting the cart before the horse. He said there would be plenty of time to do the study once funding is secured and more details are locked in place.
Alderman David Pope expressed frustration that the city of Union is expected to carry such a financial burden. He said while the problematic Highway 47 and Highway 50 intersection is in Union, those are not Union roads.
Alderman Bob Schmuke echoed Pope’s sentiment and pointed out that Highway 50 is a federal highway and Highway 47 is a state highway. Schmuke said he didn’t agree the city should have to pay the lion’s share to fix those problems.
Aldermen took no action on the issue. City Engineer Jonathan Zimmermann, who is on the Highway 47 committee, said the item was just brought before the board to inform members and to gauge aldermen’s opinions.