Some property owners along Augusta Bottom Road have agreed to support a grant that, if approved, could fund improvements on the road or construction of a new one.
However, they noted that while a new road could be a long-term solution, they asked local officials to consider a short-term plan in the meantime.
A majority of the property owners along the road, Washington city officials and some council members, Augusta town representatives, all three Warren County commissioners and other stakeholders met Tuesday night, April 10, at Washington City Hall to discuss the possibilities.
Earlier this month, Steve Etcher, Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) executive director, proposed that Warren County apply for a federal grant to construct a new bottom road north of the current road which sits atop a levee.
Etcher said Tuesday the Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently announced the allocation of $200 million for disaster projects from the 2011 fiscal year.
Of that total, $51 million is allocated for a 10-state area that includes Missouri.
Long-term economic recovery projects are eligible for the grant. Warren County qualifies to apply because it had three disaster declarations last year, Etcher said.
The grants are competitive, but Etcher said, “I think we can make the argument for the economic impact of this road as a connection from work force to workplace.”
The estimated average daily traffic count on the road is 660 vehicles.
Etcher noted the more jurisdictions or entities involved, the greater the benefit shown on the grant application.
There is no application deadline. “The grants are awarded on an ongoing continuous cycle until it’s all allocated,” Etcher said. “I think it (grant funds) will disappear quickly.”
The grant, if approved, would cover 80 percent of the cost of the project. Etcher said local entities would have to decide how to split up paying for the remaining 20 percent match.
Etcher said he doesn’t believe it would be advantageous to provide more than a 20 percent match. “This is merit-based,” he said.
Etcher said once the grant application is submitted, he estimated that it would take about 60 to 90 days to learn if the grant funds would be awarded.
Warren County commissioners said earlier this month they will support the grant application, but stressed they would only be in favor of moving forward if funds are awarded.
The commissioners have long contended they are not responsible for maintaining the Augusta Parkway section though the road sits in Warren County.
Two fatalities just over three weeks apart in late 2010 renewed debate over the need to repair the road and add safety measures.
One of the fatal accidents involved a 16-year-old Washington girl who died after her car ran off the road and into one of the ponds on the Augusta Parkway section.
A number of years ago, Washington’s engineering staff drew up several alternate plans for constructing the road on the north side of the levee, but the plans were dropped because of a lack of funding.
Washington City Engineer Dan Boyce said Tuesday, the estimated cost at that time was $1.3 million, but that did not include land rights, right of way or engineering and design costs.
It was suggested that $2 million might be a reasonable amount to seek for a new road, meaning the local match would total about $400,000.
Washington City Administrator Jim Briggs said he believes the city would contribute but said the amount would be left up to the city council.
He also said he would talk with Franklin County about participating and that a new paved road could help with Washington School District buses transporting students.
Warren County Southern District Commissioner Hubie Kluesner said St. Charles County also should get involved. Jim Rohlfing, an attorney representing Augusta, said he would talk with Joe Brazil, the St. Charles County council member who represents the area.
However, earlier in the meeting, it was noted that since the portion of the road in St. Charles County is paved, no improvements likely would be needed on that side unless the road had to be realigned.
“I’m not a fan of a road on a levee,” Etcher said, noting that a new road may be more desirable. He said a road on a levee can reduce the levee’s protection.
“I don’t think we want to present this as a repair project,” he said.
It was noted that the current right of way extends about 40 feet off the levee on both sides.
Warren County Presiding Commissioner Arden Engelage said if a new road is built to the north, all landowners would have to be in agreement.
“Warren County is not in favor of doing eminent domain. If we do this, we want everyone to get involved. We are not for condemnation,” Engelage said.
The property owners who attended Tuesday’s meeting said they were open to considering the opportunities available for improving the road or building a new one.
However, two of the property owners, the Leys and Schwoeppes, did not attend. Rohlfing said he did not know all of the property owners along the road when he invited people to the meeting.
Kluesner and Etcher agreed to talk with the Leys and Schwoeppes.
It was noted that if some property owners object to offers to buy their land for a new road, the road could remain on the levee in front of their properties.
However, others at the meeting were not sure how that might affect the chances of the grant being awarded.
If the grant is approved, it was estimated to take three years to actually construct a new road.
As a short-term solution in the meantime, property owners at the meeting suggested placing shot rock to widen the shoulders along the road.
The property owners present spoke out against installing guardrails, noting that when it rains, brush and debris gets trapped in them. Guardrails also make it dangerous for large farm equipment to maneuver, they said.
Rick Brown, with H.R. Green Co., defended his safety audit of the road, which recommended guardrails in certain places along the road.
“Anytime you have water that close to the road, it’s a hazard,” Brown said. “My gut instinct is that shot rock is not as cost-effective as guardrails.”
Because the ponds on the south side of the road are much deeper, it was recommended putting shot rock along the north side of the road to widen the shoulder.
Briggs said city staff can come up with a cost estimate to widen the shoulder with shot rock only along the Augusta Parkway section.
The stakeholders will meet again Tuesday, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. at Washington City Hall.