Controversy over proposed plan to narrow O’Fallon’s Main Street

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O’FALLON, MO (KPLR) – Some residents in O`Fallon, Missouri are angry that St. Charles County is threatening to defund two road projects if O`Fallon decides to narrow its Main Street.

But some business owners on Main Street are thrilled with the county`s ultimatum.

'You can see all the traffic that passes by here now, it`s one of the busiest streets in O`Fallon,' said Gary Hellyer, owner of Piggy`s Bar BQ on Main Street.

'They are going to put me out of business,' Hellyer said.

The so-called 'road diet' would narrow Main Street from four lanes to two lanes, with a turn lane. It was one of several suggestions offered to the city by consultants it hired to suggest ways to change the nature of Main Street.

'What you can do is expand the sidewalks and make more of a downtown walkable community type feel,' said O`Fallon Communications Director Tom Drabelle.

But some businesses fear the side effect of a road diet would create artery clogging traffic jams.

And one of those businesses is Western Lawn Equipment, owned by Joe Cronin, who is also a member of the St. Charles County Council.

So last week, Cronin convinced the County Council to give O`Fallon an ultimatum; pass a resolution promising to abandon the proposed road diet, or face losing county money for two other city road projects.

O`Fallon Councilman Jim Pepper finds the county`s threat outrageous.

'The Road Board approved the projects to get the funds, then the County Council, now the Road Board puts these other stipulations on,' said Pepper, adding 'how wrong is that.'

In a letter about the controversy sent Monday to St. Charles County mayors, including the Mayor of O`Fallon,  County Executive Steve Ehlmann said, 'The County Council has a responsibility to do what it believes is best for all the county residents, whether they live in O`Fallon or simply pass through on their way to work or school.'

The owner of Piggy`s says he`s thrilled with the county`s ultimatum.

'I`m delighted by it because somebody needs to stand up to these people down here and tell them they can`t get away with what they want to do,' Hellyer said.

The county is giving O`Fallon until November to pass a resolution promising not to put Main Street on a road diet, or else.

'I think that`s bullying at its highest,' said Pepper.