Deadline to comment on widening plan is June 17
Local leaders are eager to show state officials that the community is in full support of widening Highway 47 between Washington and St. Clair.
The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has put the project in its draft Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), a document that outlines the state’s potential upcoming highway projects, with the project tentatively slated to begin construction in 2026 with nearly an $86 million price tag. However, the plan could change. The department is asking residents and community organizations to provide their input on the plan and let the state know what projects the public supports.
County officials hope area residents will tell MoDOT they want Highway 47 widened.
“The more we stress the importance of this particular portion, (of the state’s overall transportation plan) the greater the odds of making sure it’s secured,” Franklin County Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said at the Washington Area Highway Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday.
Other county officials urged residents to take part as well.
“I think it’s going to be good for all the people of Franklin County,” said District 2 County Commissioner Dave Hinson. “Pretty much everyone in the county travels through that corridor.”
He noted that there have been serious injuries from crashes and bottlenecks are common along that stretch.
“I think eventually what they’ll do is talk about opening 47 from the Missouri River all the way up to Warrenton,” he added, explaining that it would be great for trucks and other commercial traffic.
Hinson said the three members of the county commission are working on a joint statement to submit to MoDOT during the comment period showing support for the project.
Widening Highway 47 would benefit many institutions throughout the area, according to local leaders.
The Washington Area Chamber of Commerce plans to draft a letter to send to MoDOT as well, said Chamber President and CEO Jennifer Giesike.
“We are definitely behind the widening of 47,” Giesike said. “It’s something that needs to happen for everyone who drives along there.”
Further south in St. Clair, people are also in favor.
“We’re totally on board,” said Charlene Saling, executive director of the St. Clair Chamber of Commerce. “I really think that it would add to economic development possibilities for our community.”
She said her chamber plans to write a letter to MoDOT on behalf of its members and it encourages member organizations to do the same.
However, she said many in St. Clair have been skeptical about widening Highway 47 and whether it would really contribute to St. Clair and not just help people trying to travel through St. Clair to Washington. She believes what those people don’t realize is that “traffic travels both ways.”
She noted that St. Clair is in the process of revitalizing its downtown and that the chamber is looking to encourage more development, which could attract more people on a newly-widened Highway 47.
Dr. Jon Bauer, president of East Central College, said the college, which is located in Union near Highway 47, would benefit from the project too.
“The college supports the project because it will enhance the effective and efficient growth of the region,” he said via email. “When complete, the project also will enhance driver safety and Highway 47 access to and from the Union campus.”
Industry leaders are also excited about the prospects of a wider Highway 47.
“Great infrastructure helps business grow,” said Phillip James, director of Washington operations for WEG Transformers USA. “Anytime we can improve the infrastructure coming into our business community, it’s a good thing.”
James said he is in support of any upgrades to either Highways 47 or 100.
Tim Poepsel, CEO of Empac Group, said that his sheltered workshop company has trucks driving along Highway 47 between its plants in Washington and Sullivan and warehouses in St. Clair.
“It will definitely speed up time of delivery from our warehouses to our plants,” he said. “And it’s just the ease of getting people through and the frustration of driving in the traffic.”
Both James and Poepsel said their companies would send letters to MoDOT in support of the project.