Warning Sign Erected

Guardrails should be installed along a section of Augusta Bottom Road bordered by ponds where a Washington girl lost her life a year ago.

That’s a key recommendation from an engineering consultant who prepared a safety audit of the road in both Warren and St. Charles County.

Rick Brown of H.R. Green Co. reported on the study Monday to the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee.

While the safety audit has been completed there still could be “minor tweaks,” City Engineer Dan Boyce told the committee.

The lion’s share of the audit’s cost was paid for with a grant through MoDOT’s Traffic Engineering Assistance Program. The city of Washington agreed to pay up to $2,000 toward the study’s cost.

Brown told the group Monday that Warren County already has implemented some of the study’s recommendations including adding traffic control signs and reflectors on utility poles and trees that border the gravel road which sits atop a levee.

The transportation committee has been pushing for improvements to the bottom road, which serves as a vital link between Washington and Augusta, for more than a decade. But the issue moved to the forefront following the death of Ella J. Neier, 16, Washington. She died after her car ran off a section of the road and crashed into a large pond Oct. 22, 2010.

The ponds are located along a stretch of the road known as the Augusta Parkway which was washed out in the 1993 Missouri River flood. Warren County commissioners are adamant that the stretch is owned by the town of Augusta and refuse to maintain or make improvements to that area.

Brown stressed the need to make that section safer.

“My biggest concern is the area of the ponds. You should consider guardrails in that area,” Brown told the committee. “We do believe it’s feasible to put guardrails there. You may need to stabilize the banks” behind the rails, he added. That would add to the cost and could require coordinating the work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In addition to adding guardrails along both sides of the road at the ponds, the study also recommends trimming back vegetation there, and at other locations, to improve visibility and sight distances.

Brown noted that a 24-foot-wide roadway can be maintained with guardrails. However, safety standards require a 3 1/2 foot clear zone behind the guardrails which is not possible in some spots.

But, he said, in those areas where there isn’t that much space, guardrails with double the number of posts and deeper posts can be allowed.

Brown said the cost to install approximately 2,150 feet of guardrail along the Augusta Parkway portion would be between $60,000 and $75,000.

He suggested that Augusta work with MoDOT and seek federal funding for the safety improvements along the parkway. A federal grant, if approved, could pay up to 80 percent of the cost.

Other recommendations in the study include adding chevron markers to direct motorists around curves, curves ahead signage and advisory speed limits at approaches to curves.

Brown said the study also recommends relocating some utility poles and removing a large cottonwood tree at one point. He said Warren County commissioners said they don’t have the right of way to relocate the utility poles and they don’t want to remove the tree because they fear that as the root system decays it could undermine the levee.

The commission has placed optic reflectors on the poles and the tree, Brown noted.

Road Maintenance

The other big recommendation is for Warren County to provide ongoing maintenance along the road. Brown noted that in the long run, it may be more cost effective to pave the existing road because it costs less to maintain a paved road than a gravel road.

“There’s definitely a need for more traffic controls, routine maintenance and guardrails through the pond area,” Brown told the committee. “We need the commitment of the various government agencies to maintain it.”

“This is a big first step. We now have an engineering report,” remarked Bill Miller Sr., committee member.

Bernie Hillermann, member, said the committee was told by members of Neier’s family that the money for the guardrails could be raised.

“If the money is out there, we should look at it,” said Bob Hofer, representing the Augusta town board. “But there’s also the issue of onging maintenance.”