Traffic on Highway 47

Vehicles stream northbound on Highway 47 April 1 as the southbound lane backs up between Union and Washington.

Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker is already planning what to do if a massive federal infrastructure bill is approved.

Brinker said he would like the county’s share of money to go toward making Highway 47 four lanes from Washington south through Union to St. Clair. In addition, he would like to expand Highway 50 to four lanes from the interchange with Interstate 44 to the intersection with Progress Parkway and Denmark Road in Union, where the highway is already four lanes through the city.

“I wanted to make sure that we got prepared for those funds if they come down the pike for infrastructure,” Brinker said Thursday.

The project is being dubbed “4 Lanes for Franklin.”

“That way every major municipality in Franklin will be served by some sort of four-lane infrastructure,” he said. “We have the interstate serving Pacific, St. Clair, (and) Sullivan. We have 100 serving Washington. We don’t have a four-lane service to Union, and that’s what’s missing.”

Improving connectivity between the county’s cities, particularly with Union, the county seat, would help in several ways, Brinker said.

“History tells us, economics tell us, that the easier the connectivity and the better the infrastructure between municipalities in a given county, the better the economic growth potential for the county and safer roadways as well,” Brinker said.

Brinker plans to discuss the proposal Monday with representatives from the East-West Gateway Council of Governments and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and Cochran Engineering, which provides on-call engineering services for the county.

It is uncertain whether the county would be able to pay for making the entire sections of both roads four lanes or just a portion of it.

“If it does, we’re going to be ready. If it doesn’t, we’re going to be ready for what we can get,” Brinker said.

Expanding Highway 47 to four lanes on the full 13-mile stretch between Washington and St. Clair has been discussed for at least 20 years, according to Missourian archives. The county and the city of Union recently received funding from MoDOT to move forward on the mile-long Union Expressway project, which is designed to relieve congestion at the intersection of Highways 50 and 47 in Union.

The $3 trillion federal package called “Build Back Better” seeks to make generational investments in infrastructure, revive domestic manufacturing, combat climate change and keep the U.S. competitive with China, according to the Associated Press. President Joe Biden said he hopes to have the package approved over the summer with bipartisan support.

The money would be in addition to $20.2 million in incoming stimulus funds for Franklin County from the recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Brinker said the county has received little guidance on what that money can be used for.