Warren County Coroner Roger Mauzy says politics is hampering efforts to make Augusta Bottom Road safer.
“That’s a personal view but I think politics is playing a larger role than people may know,” Mauzy said. “That’s what people have told me and its my view as well.”
Mauzy is leading the Warren County effort to raise awareness of the safety issues on the road. He is a passionate advocate for the installation of guardrails on a section of Augusta Bottom Road that was the site of a car crash more than two years ago that resulted in the death of Washington teenager, Ella Neier.
The parents of the teenager filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging negligence by multiple government entities, including Warren County, in maintaining or improving the gravel roadway.
The city of Washington and Franklin County are named as defendants in that suit even though those entities aren’t responsible for the road in Warren County.
Washington, in fact, has been behind efforts to improve safety on the road for more than a decade.
According to the crash report from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Neier was traveling westbound along Augusta Bottom Road approximately 1.6 miles from Highway 47 when she failed to negotiate a left turn in the roadway, traveled off the right side of the road and overcorrected to the left causing her vehicle to slide on the gravel. The car rotated counterclockwise, went off the left side, became airborne and overturned. The car came to rest upside down in the water, facing west.
“I was there at 4 a.m. on Augusta Bottom Road pulling that girl out,” Mauzy said. “Nobody was out there except her family and the sheriff. I saw the problem. She was 16, inexperienced and she was doing everything right, including wearing a seat belt.”
Mauzy says he has seen the problem before. The coroner was successful in advocating for cable barriers along a stretch of Interstate 70 which he feels would also help alleviate some of the safety concerns on Augusta Bottom Road.
“I want to keep the pressure on the (Warren County) commission,” Mauzy said Wednesday. “I don’t want the issue to go away. I don’t want this to happen again.”
Approximately one year following Neier’s death, MoDOT and the city of Washington contracted with H.R. Green Co., an engineering consultant, who prepared a safety audit of the 1.9-mile road that sits atop a levee and provides a link between Franklin and St. Charles counties.
One of the recommendations from the audit stated the need for 2,150 feet of guardrail along a section of the road known as the Augusta Parkway, which runs between two ponds. It is also the site where Neier’s accident occurred.
According to the audit, cost for installing guardrails would run between $60,000 and $75,000. The audit stated that the city of Augusta, which rebuilt the Augusta Parkway section with federal grants after the flood of ‘93, doesn’t have the money to purchase the guardrails.
Mauzy said private funds were pledged to install the guardrails, but they would only be purchased if Warren County would agree to maintain the road.
“They (the commission) told me it’s not their problem,” he said. “They may not have a legal obligation, but they have a moral and ethical obligation. In my opinion, I feel we have a moral responsibility to make those roads as safe as possible.”
Warren County commissioners told The Missourian they couldn’t comment on Augusta Bottom Road because of the lawsuit. They did support an effort by the Boonslick Regional Planning Commission to obtain an approximate $3 million federal disaster grant for improvements to the road. The commission learned in October that Boonslick did not get the grant.
Mauzy said he appreciated the commissioner’s support for the federal grant. He says he has attacked the commission before on its reluctance to get involved in the Augusta Bottom Road issue but was pleased the commissioners didn’t try to block efforts to apply for the grant. But he pledged to continue to apply pressure on the commission to take action on the road.
“I met with (Neier’s) family and told Mom I wasn’t going to stop,” he said. “I’m not going to stop until this road is fixed.”
Mauzy compared his efforts to get guardrails installed on Augusta Bottom Road to his efforts on I-70.
“I learned a lot in that campaign (I-70) and I made some people mad,” he added. “I look at Augusta Bottom Road as a miniature I-70. It’s a safety issue that needs to be addressed.”