With the current phase of the Highway 100 widening almost finished, should the city ask voters to extend the life of the half-cent transportation sales tax to finance further widening of the highway west to Vossbrink Drive at Heidmann Industrial Park?
“We have not discussed that,” City Administrator Jim Briggs told members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee last week.
“Right now we’re focusing on getting this (phase) done and getting annexation back on track,” Briggs said.
The city staff has started to discuss the possibility of building a segment of the proposed east-west parkway loop road, from High Street to Highway 47 as a way to move some of the traffic congestion off Highway 100, he told the committee.
The highway is being widened to four lanes from Highway 47 to a point 800 feet west of High Street under a cost-sharing agreement with the state. A ribbon cutting to mark the opening of the new westbound lanes is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 25.
Bill Miller Sr., committee member, raised the issue about future extension of four lanes further west, and noted some that economic development officials have heard concerns about how long it takes to get through the city to and from the industrial park.
“It is a project we could talk about,” Briggs said.
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker, a member, said it’s been anticipated that the highway eventually would be four lanes to the industrial tract. “I hope that this would be a priority,” Brinker remarked.
However, there’s no guarantee that MoDOT would be in a position to do another cost-sharing project on Highway 100.
“We have had a lot of calls about building a ‘Super Two’ Highway 100 all the way to Hermann,” said Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer. A Super Two highway would have wider shoulders and other improvements to move traffic faster and more safely.
That is an “illustrative” project in the state’s long-range transportation plan and is slated for 2040, Wagner said. But finding funding for such a project is the issue.
Wagner said improving the Highway 47 corridor between Washington and St. Clair is more important.
“I see the Highway 47 corridor as more of a priority than Highway 100 at this point, based on the number of fatalities,” she remarked at the meeing.
In 2005, city voters approved the 25-year transportation sales tax which was projected to generate about $26 million over its life to provide funds to finance the highway widening project and to repair and improve local streets.
Briggs said the full $26 million is committed for Highway 100 improvements and local streets over the next 16 years.
Currently, the half-cent transportation sales tax generates about $1.8 million a year in revenue, Briggs said.
Of that, approximately $1.3 million is dedicated for debt service on certificates of participation (COPs) issued to pay the city’s share on the Highway 100 projects, he explained. The rest is dedicated for local roads.
In addition to the sales tax, the city also receives about $500,000 each year as its share of revenue from the state motor fuel tax and from sales taxes collected on vehicle sales, Briggs said, for a $2.3 million available for transportation needs from all sources.
Briggs said the city is required to put up some form of collateral to cover the COPs. The city hall complex is the collateral for the Highway 100 COPs, he explained, and the city currently has no other buildings to use as collateral.
The city could seek to refinance the current COPs and extend the sales tax out for additional years, however the tax would not generate any additional annual revenue beyond what currently is coming in to satisfy the debt service now, Briggs noted.