Will you be alive 26 or 27 years from now? If you are, you may drive on a four-lane Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair. The four-lane project is on the 2040 improvement list of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). In other words, it has a low priority.

Anybody who drives that stretch of highway will tell you four lanes are needed now. County officials will tell you the same thing. Even MoDOT officials will say improvements are needed due to the traffic count.

But other state transportation projects have a higher priority. That’s why it is on the 2040 improvement list. Right now there’s no funding for it and countless other projects.

There is something that can be done to give the highway a higher priority. Through local participation in a project, a higher priority is possible — not assured, only possible. The local participation is evolving. Franklin County, the cities of Washington and Union, the Washington Special Road District, and probably St. Clair, have come up with enough money for a study, which is required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). MoDOT believes there is enough money donated and is planning to seek bids for the study.

Judy Wagner, area MoDOT engineer, told the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee that this kind of local participation is what the state agency looks for in raising the priority level. She made no promises. What she said were words of encouragement.

It has happened in the past that local participation in a highway project has paid dividends. An example is Highway 100 between Washington and Interstate 44 which was improved to two lanes in each direction after Washington voters approved a special sales tax to pay half the cost. The current four-lane Highway 100 project in Washington also is a result of that sales tax.

Donations for a required preliminary study of needed improvements isn’t the same as a sales tax to pay half the construction costs. But the local participation still is significant.

A four-lane Highway 47 between St. Clair and Washington, passing through Union, would greatly improve safety for county citizens and it would be a stimulus for economic development. We applaud the entities who pledged donations for the study.

It doesn’t take a great deal of vision to see what a four-lane Highway 47 from Washington to St. Clair would do for Franklin County. With some improvements scheduled for Highway 47 from Warrenton to Washington, and a new 47 bridge over the Missouri River at Washington coming soon, Interstate 70 would link up with Interstate 44 — something MoDOT would like to see. Motorists also would welcome such a link.

The Highway 47 corridor improvement would be one of the most significant happenings in the history of Franklin County.