It almost passed unnoticed. If there hadn’t been a sign in the Washington City Council chambers Monday morning, members of the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee probably wouldn’t have remembered the anniversary.
The committee is 20 years old.
The committee was appointed by Bernie Hillermann when he was mayor. Bernie still is a member of the committee, along with several other charter members.
The committee was formed to have a body of volunteers who would meet monthly to direct a focus on highway, bridge, street and transportation needs, and to push for needed improvements. It also was formed to seek a stronger relationship with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). That has happened. MoDOT’s area engineer, Judy Wagner, is a member of the committee. Other area engineers also served. Judy has been a member of the committee for 12 years.
The committee has been involved in every major highway and transportation issue that has been in the mix for the last 20 years in the Washington area. The committee also has voiced its opinions and supported every major state issue that MoDOT has advocated. For instance, the committee has endorsed the three-quarter-cent transportation sales tax that will be on the ballot in August.
The monthly dialogue with the state area engineer has been one of the most valuable results of the formation of the committee. Needs are discussed with the engineer, who keeps the committee informed of the status of proposed projects and the progress being made on work that is under way. This area has been fortunate to have area engineers who listen. In many cases there is not immediate action, but a response is there even if it takes some time. It’s always a matter of funding — when it will be available.
One of the most constructive things MoDOT has done over the years is to have area engineers. They become very familiar with the areas they serve. Our area engineer knows Washington and Franklin County, and what Warren County state projects impact the city and our county. The area engineer is familiar with the roads and bridges in the sections they serve. They give information about what other areas are doing. For instance, public transportation is an agenda item. Judy advised the committee on what other cities are doing to provide public transportation.
The county engineer attends the monthly meetings and gives a status report on county projects. The chairman of the special Highway 47 bridge committee, Bob Zick, reports on the project and bridge issues at every meeting. The area engineer of the northeast district also attends most of the meetings. Reports are given on the airport, Augusta Bottom Road, Amtrak, Highway 47 corridor, the county transportation committee, Highway 100, team track, public transportation and other items.
Some of the regular agenda items have aged with little or no action. There have been mostly successes, but other projects have been elusive.
The late Danny Maschmann, an engineer, was the first chairman of the committee. Bill Straatmann has served as chairman of the committee since the death of Maschmann. The mayor is an automatic member of the committee, along with members of the council. First District Commissioner of Franklin County, Tim Brinker, also is a member of the committee.
It is the communication with MoDOT that has been one of the stellar results of the formation of the committee. The committee makes recommendations to the council. It has no authority over city street or bridge projects, but it does assist the council, and serves in an advisory role. It is a very valuable body for the city.