A window of opportunity has opened in the long struggle to improve the Augusta Bottom Road in southern Warren County.
Steve Etcher, Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) executive director, is proposing that Warren County apply for a grant through the Economic Development Administration to construct a new Augusta Bottom Road north of the current road which sits atop a levee.
Etcher met last week with Warren County commissioners who said they will support the grant application. They stressed, however, that they would only be in favor of moving forward if funds are awarded.
Etcher said the 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.
Warren County qualifies to apply for the funds because it had three disaster declarations last year, Etcher said.
“My thinking is this could be an opportunity to permanently address Augusta Bottom Road,” Etcher remarked. “Not necessarily repair the one on the levee, but seek a permanent solution.”
Two fatalities just over three weeks apart in 2010 renewed debate over the need to repair the road and add safety measures. Since then, numerous discussions on the road have been held.
Washington has been keenly interested in upgrading the road which serves as a connection between the city and the town of Augusta and other parts of St. Charles County.
A safety analysis of the road, which was partly funded by Washington, has been completed and pointed out safety improvements that could be made, specifically in the Augusta Parkway area where the road is bordered by large ponds. A 16-year-old Washington girl died in 2010 after her car ran off the road and into one of the ponds.
Warren County commissioners have long contended they are not responsible for maintaining the Augusta Parkway section though the road sits in Warren County. They also are not in favor of paving the existing road in fear it would increase speeds and lead to more accidents.
Past and current county commissioners have stated that Augusta Bottom Road has little benefit to the county since no residents live on it.
Etcher said he plans to approach representatives from the city of Washington, Augusta, Three Creeks Village, the levee district and adjacent property owners to see if there is similar interest in proceeding with the grant application.
Commissioners said last week they feel applying for the grant is worth a shot to see if funding could be identified for a future project related to the controversial road.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore what we have out there,” Southern District Commissioner Hubie Kluesner said. “If we run into roadblocks, then we run into them. But we don’t know until we explore it.”
Etcher said a preliminary engineering report needs to be done and included in the grant application. It was mentioned that a past preliminary design could be updated with new construction costs.
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.
Etcher said that the BRPC would handle having an environmental study performed.
It was suggested that $2 million might be a reasonable amount to seek for the new road. Etcher recommended that a grant application be submitted within three to six months, if not sooner, if the other entities support the effort.
He added the grant would cover 80 percent of the project, with the remaining 20 percent to be contributed by the other entities.
“We will start some conversations and see if there is an interest,” Etcher said. “I will approach the other partners and see if they are financially committed to the project. If not, I will come back and it is what it is.”