It was all smiles and banter at the Highway 100 Happy Hour last Friday morning at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the extension of four lanes of Highway 100 in the Washington city limits. There were no liquid refreshments at this Happy Hour, but none was needed as participants basked in the “good feeling” event.

The tone was set by Judy Wagner, area highway engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), who presided. She pledged that the work to extend four lanes from Highway 47 to a point west of High Street “won’t be the last phase” in making Highway 100 a four-lane roadway.

“Bernie Hillermann wants to go all the way to Hermann,” Judy remarked, as she kidded the former mayor who formed the Washington Area Highway and Transportation Committee, which meets monthly. He and other committee members, including Bill Straatmann, chairman, attended the playful first toss of dirt to signal the beginning of the project.

Mayor Sandy Lucy remarked that Washington “will never be satisfied” when it comes to road and bridge improvements. The area engineer also talked about how the Washington community is able to obtain an improvement and immediately begin to work for another needed project. The focus now is on improving Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair. The mayor was particularly grateful to the citizens of Washington for approving a half-cent transportation sales tax to fund half of the Highway 100 four-lane work in partnership with MoDOT. She added that the tax also is helping to pay the cost to improve streets. The mayor called Wagner “St. Judy” because of her cooperation.

Ed Hillhouse, executive director of the East West Gateway Council of Governments, in saying it’s good to be home, pointed to the highway improvements in this area in the past 10 years. He added that this is one of the most active areas in the St. Louis region in pushing for highway improvements. His advice: “Keep going, keep pushing.” He added that the regional planning agency, East-West, is well aware of the improvements needed on Highway 47. Hillhouse is a former presiding commissioner of Franklin County.

Dan Engemann of Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer’s office said Washington is one of the congressman’s “favorite communities,” and he praised Washington’s vision and leadership.

Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer congratulated Washington and MoDOT for their “team effort” in the project. He also praised the new director of MoDOT, Dan Nichols.

Tim Brinker, first district county commissioner, extended thanks to everybody who cooperated in the project, especially Judy Wagner. He explained that the Highway 47 project will be “huge,” and the county should help with the study. He added that an improved Highway 47 will be a key link between Interstate 70 and Interstate 44.

Bill Straatmann thanked the city highway and transportation committee members, lauding their attendance at meetings and cooperation.

The “never satisfied” attitude in the Washington community, “which is great,” was highlighted by Judy. She also praised the city’s highway and transportation committee, of which she is a member, and recognized Hillermann for forming the committee when he was mayor.

One of the key players in the Highway 100 improvement was City Administrator Jim Briggs, who worked closely with MoDOT on the project. He was present at the groundbreaking. Another key figure was former Mayor Dick Stratman, who was a driving force in promoting the improvements.

There aren’t many Happy Hours that could match this one for pure joy and gratitude.