By Monte Miller
Missourian Staff Writer
The long-awaited study of Highway 47 from St. Clair to Washington will begin in early September.
Ten months later, communities that rely on the major north-south artery will have a better idea of what the problems are and more importantly, how to fix them.
A contract was approved Thursday by the Highway 47 committee to pay St. Louis-based Lochmueller Group $185,000 to conduct the traffic analysis over a 10-month period.
The next step will be for the Franklin County Commission, which is the lead government entity on the project, to approve the contract at its county commission meeting Sept. 5.
The county has pledged $75,000, the cities of Union and Washington have both pledged $50,000 and the Union and Washington Special Road districts have put in $5,000 each to fund the study.
The Highway 47 committee selected Lochmueller Group in February from a field of three.
County Highway Administrator Ron Williams says the delay between selection and project start was simply a matter of bad timing.
“The traffic study needs to be done when school is in session,” he said. “Traffic is higher in those months. By the time we went back and forth on the scope of the study a couple of times it was already May.”
Williams added all of the terms of the contract are to his liking and the committee will be getting a more comprehensive study than they had even planned when the process began.
The study will be very comprehensive and in addition to identifying issues also will provide suggestions for long-term solutions.
Once the notice to proceed is given, residents traveling the corridor will see Lochmueller Group staff at various points taking measurements and setting up traffic-counting equipment for 24-hour-per-day recording.
Key times for the data collection will be weekdays between 7 and 9 a.m. and 3 and 6 p.m.
One of the first steps taken will be to assess current traffic conditions by contacting the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to gather volume, speed and crash data for the 13-mile corridor.
Since many traffic backups on the highway are due to cars turning, special attention will be paid to intersections. The contract lists 13 major intersections with an additional six “spot” turning locations as well.
Driveways and median openings will not be included in the enhanced scrutiny.
Lochmueller Group will then combine the current traffic numbers with growth plans for Washington, Union, St. Clair and the county as a whole to give a 20-year traffic forecast for the corridor.
Once the study portion is complete, detailed improvement plans can be formulated.
The study is expected to include three improvement plans ranging from the lowest cost to alleviate congestion to the highest cost of reconfiguring and widening the highway.
These plans will be discussed with MoDOT to ensure they are in line with their current design builds in that area.
Throughout the 10-month study, Lochmueller Group will brief the Highway 47 committee and at least one public meeting will be scheduled to update residents on not only the progress of the study but its findings and suggestions thus far.
A public website also will be created for residents to comment on the project and leave suggestions before the study is complete.