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St. Charles County set to bankroll environmental assessment study for Route N

St. Charles County is on the verge of putting up its own money to help define road improvements along an old two-lane state highway.  Those improvements could be a major factor in future development in the western part of the county.

The county’s investment also could help jump-start the development process and get any new improvements built faster, officials say.

The County Council is expected to consider, as early as Jan. 29, whether to put up $1.5 million to fund an environmental assessment study along Route N, between the end of the Route 364/Page extension to the David Hoekel Parkway and Jackson Road, a distance of about nine miles. A bill approving an agreement with the state to provide the money received a first reading at the council’s Jan. 8 meeting.

The money would come from the county’s half-cent transportation sales tax, used largely to fund local road improvement projects.

The study would review existing problems, such as land use and cultural and environmental impacts, and suggest potential solutions. A completed study, approved by the Federal Highway Administration, is required if federal highway funds are to be used to help pay for suggested improvements.

John Greifzu, the county’s assistant director of administration, said population growth in the western portion of the county is one reason why the local government is looking at providing the $1.5 million to get the study started.  Greifzu served as the county’s director of transportation between 2004 and 2016. In this effort, he worked closely with the county’s road board, a group of civilian appointees who make annual recommendations on spending transportation sales tax funding on road projects.

Route N was built in 1960 and now serves a growing residential and commercial area south of Wentzville.

Officials with the Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT] agree that Route N needs reconstruction; however, a lack of available funding has slowed studies and work on projects throughout the state.

Greifzu said local funding could get the process going and help to arrive at a solution sooner without having to wait for the state to obtain additional money to provide matching funds for more federal dollars to build the improvements.

If the council approves the $1.5 million allocation, the money will be sent to MoDOT and the environmental assessment could begin this spring. It may take 14 to 18 months to complete.

“The county is just trying to be proactive,” Greifzu said. “We’re hearing from our residents out there that the two-lane roadway … is becoming more congested, there are safety issues, narrow lanes, and shoulders are lacking. So we’re doing whatever we can to jump-start the process so we can identify a solution when either state or federal money becomes available.

“A big part of the question that has to be answered in the study is ‘what does Route N look like in the future?’ Does it develop pretty much like Route K in O’Fallon, where it’s a bi-lane roadway with traffic signals and direct access to roads or does it look more like Winghaven Boulevard or eventually Olive [Street] in parts St. Louis County where you have more controlled access with traffic signals, some medians and landscaping? Is that the type of facility residents want? Or would they prefer that it be upgraded to a full freeway like Route 364-Page Avenue?

“Those are really the fundamental questions we’re trying to ask the residents during this process of studying Route N. What do they want it to look like? What is their expectation of … this roadway … 20 years in the future and [how do they expect it to] serve those needs?”

Officials from the cities of Wentzville, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon along with developers, residents and Wentzville School District representatives are expected to be active participants in the environmental assessment.

Among the related issues is Route N’s role in traffic flow in the Wentzville area. Route N, which is an east-to-west roadway, lies south of where a railroad bridge crosses Interstate 70, resulting in a source of congestion in the area. Improving Route N could allow more efficient traffic flow not only for commuters but for the movement of goods and freight.

That’s just one consideration in a complex mix of issues that may be examined during this study, Greifzu said.

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