The contractor on the long-awaited Highway A improvement project could begin work by the end of this week.

That schedule is dependent on the contractor, N.B. West Contracting Company, completing all paperwork involved and having it approved, according to Judy Wagner, MoDOT area engineer for Franklin and Jefferson counties.

Weather also could be a factor on when the company starts work.

Meanwhile, after a series of delays due to severe bouts of winter weather, MoDOT crews began work this week replacing culverts along the 7.2-mile stretch of Route A between Union and Washington.

Crews started the culvert replacement work at the Union end of the project.

That work involves closing both lanes of the highway at points where culvert pipes under the highway are excavated and replaced with new pipes.

Motorists need to plan on making detours, as crews will be completely closing the highway where work is being done.

MoDOT encourages drivers to use Highway 47 as an alternate route during this preliminary construction work.

The West firm was awarded the contract on a low bid of $2,408,357.26.

There were five bidders on the project and all came in under the $3,965,000 allocated for construction in the 2014-2018 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

It likely will take two construction seasons to complete all the work, Wagner said.

The first segment, from Union, just north of the Independence Drive intersection, to Highway YY at Krakow is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

The second phase, from Route YY to the Washington city limits is slated to be finished by early October 2015.

Wagner said under the contract, the contractor must complete paving and shoulder work on the first phase by October.

The project will include adding 2-foot shoulders, resurfacing the highway from Chamber Drive at Washington to just north of Independence Drive in Union and make other safety improvements, including adding guardrails in certain areas and improved stormwater drainage facilities.

The project also will include adding interactive speed limit signs along Highway A near the Highway YY intersection at Krakow. The signs will show the speed limit and below that will be an indicator that displays an approaching vehicle’s actual speed.

The purpose is to alert drivers to slow down as they approach the intersection, which is highly congested at times.

The signs likely will be installed near the end of the project, Wagner said.

The current 11-foot-wide driving lanes will be maintained but resurfaced and the shoulders will be added. There are three areas along the route where curves will be improved.

State and local officials have been pushing for improvements along the highway for many years.