If traffic flow and congestion isn’t enough to get the attention of state and federal transportation officials, a recent quadruple fatality wreck on Highway 47 might be.
Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said Tuesday he will be doubling down on the county’s efforts to get something done about the 13-mile stretch of road between Washington and St. Clair.
The crash occurred just before 1:30 p.m. Friday, March 22, on Highway 47 north of Meade Farm Road and near Midlawn Funeral Home. All four were passengers in a car that crashed head-on with a tractor-trailer.
According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol preliminary crash report, Michael T. DeClue, 58, De Soto; Catherine A. Mesey, 78, De Soto; Isaac D. Pratt, 5, Desloge; and Alayah L. Pratt, 4, Desloge; were killed in the crash.
“Two weeks ago, four members of a family were erased from existence due to Highway 47,” Brinker said. “Our primary focus as elected officials has to be the life safety of our residents.”
A study completed last summer offers seven major long-term options, all very similar in cost, which include some form of rerouting of the highway.
Each option recommends widening the corridor to four lanes at a cost of near $70 million.
Included in the study are a new bridge over the Bourbeuse River and directly aligning the intersection of Highway 47 and 50 in Union.
Also on Tuesday, Brinker met with Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Area Engineer Judy Wagner about the accident.
Wagner is very familiar with the Highway 47 corridor as an advisory member of the Highway 47, Washington Area Highway Transportation and Franklin County Transportation committees.
The yearlong, $185,000 taxpayer-funded study on Highway 47 was well-received by MoDOT officials when presented last August.
The study was paid for by the cities of Union, Washington, Franklin County and the Union and Washington Special Road districts.
The city of St. Clair had originally pledged funds for the study, but backed out causing Franklin County to invest more to fill the gap.
“We have to fix this problem and get this project funded,” Brinker said. “I’m tired of losing people.”
On Wednesday, Brinker traveled to Jefferson City to meet with both House and Senate lawmakers from Franklin County to continue the push for state funding for the project.
Brinker said he met with State Reps. John Simmons, Aaron Griesheimer and Nathan Tate in the office of State Sen. Dave Schatz and he feels positive about the chances for funding.
Schatz, R-Sullivan, is the Senate president pro tem, the second highest position in that chamber, which gives him the prerogative to control the flow of legislation.
Tate, R-St.Clair, is the vice chairman of the House Transportation Committee and also sits on the Joint Committee on Transportation Oversight with several Senate colleagues.
Griesheimer is a member of both the House Transportation and Budget committees.
“We met for about an hour and they are all on board with finding a solution,” Brinker said. “We have people in the right places at the state level. There is not a better time to pursue this.”
On Thursday, Brinker was to meet with a representative from U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s office and additional meetings are set with Sen. Roy Blunt and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer’s office as well.
With the $70 million project price tag looming large in the funding process, Brinker says the solution will be a local match or cost-sharing program of some kind and 80/20 split with either the state of Missouri or even the federal government.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” Brinker said. “I think we can do anything if all of the stakeholders work together. I’m tired of the loss of life on this road.”
Brinker said the local match for the project would be in the $14 million range, but he doesn’t want to talk about any new taxes yet.
“We would look internally first,” he said. “Obviously, the county is invested, but we have to get everybody on board, including all of the municipalities and road districts. This may be a multi-year approach of setting aside monies to get this done.”
Brinker has called a special meeting of the Highway 47 committee for April 17 to update members on his efforts and encourage them to begin looking at what funds they could contribute to get the project funded.