Members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee voted Monday to recommend that the city council participate in matching a federal grant to construct a new Augusta Bottom Road in Warren County.
“This is an opportunity that may not come around again,” said Bill Miller Sr., committee member, who made the motion to recommend the city council “consider” appropriating funds toward the local match.
The recommendation came after Steve Etcher, executive director of the Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC), told the committee that Warren County commissioners are committed to providing the local match for the bulk of the road project if a federal grant is approved.
Etcher has been working to obtain a federal disaster grant through the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to replace the current gravel road, which sits on top of a levee, with a new road on the north side.
“If we build this, we want to build it right,” Etcher remarked. “To fix it correctly we need to get it off the levee.”
The BRPC, which serves local governments in Warren, Montgomery and Lincoln counties, plans to submit grant applications for four projects, Etcher said. But regional EDA representatives have indicated that “this is the one they are most interested in,” he remarked, in part because it links commercial areas.
“They (EDA representatives) have given me reason to be optimistic,” Etcher said of chances for obtaining a grant for the bottom road.
While Warren County commissioners have agreed to provide a local match for most of the road, they will not dedicate funds for the Augusta Parkway at the eastern end of the road which connects Warren and St. Charles counties, Etcher stressed.
That section of the road was rebuilt after it was washed out by the 1993 flood, which left behind large ponds on either side.
Warren County commissioners contend that the Augusta Parkway, while in Warren County, is owned by the town of Augusta which received federal funds to rebuild that section after the major flood.
The next move, Etcher said, will be to come up with funds for a preliminary engineering report and secure a commitment for matching funds for the Augusta Parkway section.
He estimated that the initial engineering work would cost about $5,000 and gave a rough estimate of $100,000 to $125,000 for the local match for the Augusta Parkway.
“If we can get that part of the match we will move forward,” Etcher said. “We will file it (application) as soon as we get the remainder of the 20 percent match,” he said, adding that the “clock is ticking.”
The total project is expected to cost between $2.7 million and $3 million.
Etcher noted that the local match could be in cash or in-kind services.
The town of Augusta has a total annual budget of about $150,000, Etcher explained. Under state law it could commit up to 10 percent of its general fund budget for improvements to a road that leads into the town. Based on a three-year funding cycle, the town probably could dedicate about $30,000 for the local match, he noted.
Bernie Hillermann, member, said he spoke with the former chairman of the Augusta Town Board and he said he feels the board will participate.
“They are very committed,” Etcher replied. He said he has approached St. Charles County officials who are “looking for a way” to help Augusta with the local match.
“Franklin County officials say they want to see it fixed but don’t see any way they can legally fund it,” Etcher told the committee.
Etcher said he has been talking with many local officials and property owners and for the most part everyone is behind the project.
One property owner is still hesitant about going forward, in part because of concerns about drainage if the road is moved off the levee, he said, adding that a drainage system will be a crucial part of the new road design.
An option would be to take legal action to acquire needed right of way, but Etcher said he is “dreadfully” opposed to that.
He said he is willing to attend an upcoming meeting and address the Washington City Council on the matter.
The EDA has allocated $51 million for disaster projects from the 2011 fiscal year in a 10-state area that includes Missouri.
Warren County qualifies because it had three disaster declarations last year, Etcher said.
The grant funds are competitive and there is no application deadline, but Etcher said he believes the grant funds will disappear quickly.
If the application is submitted by September, the county likely would be notified of the EDA’s decision by October or November.
Even though the road is not in the city’s jurisdiction, the transportation committee has been pushing for improvements to the bottom road for many years because it serves as a vital link between Washington and areas of St. Charles County, including Augusta.
Those efforts were intensified after a 16-year-old Washington girl died in late 2010 when she crashed her car into a large pond along what is known as the Augusta Parkway.
Recently, the city council approved a $2,000 match for a state grant to conduct a safety analysis along the road.
Earlier this month, City Administrator Jim Briggs recommended that the city not participate in local match funding, noting that he believes it would be in everyone’s best interest that the project not be perceived as a “Washington project.”
He also noted that by state statute, the city is limited to spending no more than 10 percent of general fund revenue for roads within five miles that lead into the city.
The city currently has a “significant” commitment for those funds dedicated to the Highway 100 east widening project that was completed several years ago, Briggs noted.