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St. Charles County agrees to pay $1.5 million for Route N environmental assessment study

St. Charles County officials have agreed to spend $1.5 million in county funding for a study that may help jump-start the process of making road improvements along an increasingly congested section of Route N in the western part of the county.

At its Jan. 29 meeting, the County Council approved spending the money, but not before hearing from one resident who questioned whether spending the money for studies was a waste of time and a Wentzville official who called the spending an investment.

Lisa Payne-Naeger, a Lake Saint Louis resident who lives along Route N, told councilmembers during public comments that nearby residents aren’t happy with the idea of spending $1.5 million for a study. The area served by the route is experiencing tremendous growth and is now congested and poises traffic hazards, she said.

“We‘ve known that the road has needed attention for a very long time,” Payne-Naeger said. “People’s lives may depend on it and taxpayer money could be better spent addressing the needs of that road without expensive studies.”

The study may suggest improvements, probably involving tearing out shoulders along the route built a few years ago, and “ammunition to come at us for a tax increase for just that road,” Payne-Naeger said.

Wentzville Alderman Robert Hussey [Ward 1] had a different perspective. “I don’t see this as a cost but an investment,” Hussey told the council.

“This is not a project the state can do by themselves, the cities can do by themselves or the county can do by themselves,” Hussey said. “We need this study in order to get federal dollars.”

Hussey said Route N now “scares him” because of its increasing traffic congestion and high speeds. He said he worries about his children driving on it.

“It’s a dangerous road, in fact, it can be a deadly road,” Hussey said.

The council voted 5-0 to approve spending $1.5 million to fund an environmental assessment study along about nine miles of Route N between the end of Route 364/Page extension to the David Hoekel Parkway and Jackson Road. The money is to come from the county’s half-cent transportation sales tax, used largely to fund local road improvement projects.

Amanda Brauer, roads and traffic manager for the county, told the council, before the vote, that a completed study approved by the Federal Highway Administration is required if federal funds are to be used to help pay for suggested improvements.

Route N was built in 1960 and now serves a growing residential and commercial area south of Wentzville. The Missouri Department of Transportation [MoDOT], which is facing funding issues, does not now have the money now to make the road a priority project, Brauer said.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann said the county has tried to convince MoDOT of the need for improvements along Route N for 10 years.  Some area planners have suggested that Route N was “too far out” to deserve attention, Ehlmann said.

Ehlmann said the county footing the bill for the study may help in developing solutions and road improvement plans sooner without having to wait for the state to find money for the study. The concept isn’t new. Twenty years ago, the county provided funding for a similar study for the Daniel Boone Bridge on Interstate 64 across the Missouri River.

The Route N study will take 14-18 months to complete and may not only speed up the process but come up with improvements and a comprehensive vision for what the route may look like.

John Greifzu, the county’s assistant director of administration and former transportation director, said, yes, Payne-Naeger  may be right that new improvements may require tearing out shoulders along Route N. The shoulders were put in by MoDOT, which has jurisdiction over the road, before a more comprehensive study was done that may have suggested other improvements.

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