County and state officials alike said they were relieved last week when the East-West Gateway Council of Governments board passed its Transportation Improvement Plan.
John Griesheimer, Franklin County presiding commissioner and a member of the EWG board, said there was a risk the plan wouldn’t get passed after Illinois officials objected to plans to remove a ramp on Interstate 55 heading over the Poplar Street bridge.
“I don’t know what we would have done had we gotten into a fight with Illinois,” Griesheimer said. “It was that contentious.
“If it had come to votes, I don’t know what we would have done or which way it would have gone,” he said.
Griesheimer said St. Clair County, Ill., officials were opposed to removing the ramp because it would cause traffic to be routed over the new Mississippi River bridge.
MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner said that would cause a four-minute delay for those trying to get to Route 3 in Illinois, but officials there disagreed with that assessment.
A delay in the TIP would have meant a loss of federally allocated funds, Griesheimer said.
The plan, approved Oct. 3, provides funding for several projects in Franklin County, including the widening of Highway 47 from Highway 50 to the Flat Creek bridge in Union and the addition of shoulders to Highway A between Union and Washington.
To find a compromise, an independent engineering firm was hired to look at the options.
That firm, HDR, came up with a compromise that will add additional lanes on Interstate 64 and the Poplar Street bridge, Griesheimer said.
The compromise comes with a $25 million price tag.
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy, the county’s other EWG board member, said the plan also calls for a lane from the new Mississippi River bridge to be routed directly to Route 3.
Lucy said she was frustrated because opposition to the plan “came late in the game.”
Wagner said MoDOT and Illinois Department of Transportation personnel both approved the plan to tear down the old I-55 ramp.
She said IDOT will be responsible for coming up with the additional funds for the compromise plan.