A small creature is holding up a large road construction project in the southwest corner of Franklin County.
On Friday, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) delayed the Route H over Bourbeuse River rehabilitation project due to an endangered bat that is nesting under the bridge site.
The closure is expected to be delayed up to two weeks as MoDOT monitors the area to see if the bat will move naturally from its roosting area.
Due to certain bat species being classified as endangered, the Federal Endangered Species Act prevents the removal of such species.
Although the Route H project is not being done by Franklin County, Ron Williams, county highway administrator, says there are several species of endangered bats that can halt projects.
“Any projects done with federal funds require a bat survey to be done first,” Williams said. “I’ve never had a project delayed because the bats normally nest in trees. This case is different.”
Williams explained in the early stages of a project, a survey of trees in the area that may be potential nesting habitats for the bats are identified.
“We usually clear them out way ahead of time,” Williams said. “There is a window between Nov. 1 and April, that they can be cut down, otherwise the bats may nest in them.”
By doing this in the five-month window, the bats will then find other trees to use as roosts elsewhere in the area.
Williams added the endangered bats are such a factor in Missouri, that MoDOT has its own team from the environmental division that will assist in identifying potential bat habitats.
“They prefer for us to do it ourselves, but they will come out from Jefferson City if needed,” Williams said. “In the last 10 years, we just calculate the extra cost for the environmental expert and tree clearing into most estimates for road projects.”
Once the closure begins, MoDOT will close Route H to place a new bridge deck, barriers, and pavement in the area.
The route is expected to reopen by late December.
Franklin County just reopened Shawnee Ford Road Wednesday, Sept. 4, and it is accessible for drivers to use as an alternate route.
Drivers can also use Route 50, Route CC, and Route AC as detour routes.
The county just completed a $1,481,000 replacement of the Shawnee Ford Road bridge over the Bourbeuse River about 11 miles northwest of Sullivan.
The bridge replacement was being funded by federal money as was approved in 2015 by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments.
At that time, the federal money totaled $1.1 million, with Franklin County contributing $272,000 for the project.
The contract with KCI Construction will include constructing a new three-span bridge consisting of two 90-foot sections and one 120-foot section.
Williams said some minor work is still being done in the area, but the road is open to traffic.
“It was imperative we got our project done before they closed Route H,” Williams said. “Otherwise it would have caused a heck of a detour.”
He added MoDOT began putting up closure signs in the middle of August, but the county wasn’t supposed to have Shawnee Ford done until the end of August.
“First they told me because of weather issues they wouldn’t start until the 9th,” Williams said. “Now we’re not sure when they will start.”
Bats and Mussels
Both bats and freshwater mussels have thrown small wrenches into other county projects, but those issues have been resolved relatively easily.
In 2014, Franklin County paid $18,600 to have the Meramec River outside Pacific surveyed for mussel beds before the work began on replacing the Bend Road bridge.
An environmental consultant conducting the mussel survey at the site found that there were 21 species of mussels found in numerous beds, and three of them were endangered.
Because of the mussel beds, an implosion that would remove the old span all at once was out of the question.
Instead, the century-old metal span had to be cut up and taken down in smaller pieces.