Officials continue to look into how to best deal with endangered mussels that have been found near the site of a proposed new bridge in eastern Franklin County.
A county consultant found two large beds around the site of the proposed Bend Road bridge replacement project near Pacific.
One bed is just upstream of the proposed new bridge location while the other is right underneath the current bridge.
“We’ve determined that we should be able to build the new bridge without impacting that one bed (upstream),” Franklin County Highway Administrator Joe Feldmann said. “We’re within like 25 feet of one of the beds, so basically we’re going to construct around it and not touch it.”
However, officials are still looking into how to deal with the other mussel bed under the current Bend Road bridge, which crosses the Meramec River.
For instance, if the current bridge is demolished, something will have to be done with the mussels to make sure the bridge does not fall on the mussel bed.
“So that could throw additional costs into the project because we couldn’t just drop the bridge in the water, which would be the normal process, and then fish it out,” Feldmann said. “We would have to take it apart piece by piece somehow so we would not affect that bed below us.”
Another option would be to move the mussel bed.
There are also discussions on leaving the current bridge in place as a pedestrian walkway.
“If that’s the case, if it would stay in place, then we wouldn’t affect that bed and that would be the simplest and probably the most cost-effective (strategy) . . .,” Feldmann added.
The county is going through a process with the Missouri Department of Transportation and federal highway officials to properly deal with the mussels.
The East-West Gateway Council of Governments, a regional planning agency that allocates federal money, has preliminarily approved $3.46 million in federal funds for the bridge replacement project.
Receiving final funding approval is basically a formality that could come any day now, Feldmann said.
The county would also provide a construction funding match of more than $1 million, according to the county.
Also, the county is paying for design and engineering for about $385,000.
The bridge is nearly 100 years old.
Construction on the new bridge may start next spring, he added.