There will be no weight — and broader width or height — limits on the new Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River, and that could open the door to the transit of commodities into Franklin County and beyond.
The new bridge, coupled with new focus on shipping on St. Louis area waterways, makes Highway 47 from Interstate 70 to Interstate 44 a crucial artery with much needed upgrades, according to state and county officials. The current bridge has a weight limit of 40 tons.
A discussion at the Washington Area Transportation Committee Monday turned to the realignment of Highway 47 at Highway 50 in Union. There are no concrete plans for the project, but Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and Union officials have developed preliminary costs estimates.
The realignment plan, favored by MoDOT, calls for Highway 47 to be rerouted to the west of Dickey Bub Farm and Home.
MoDOT Area Engineer Judy Wagner provided a rough estimate of $16,864,080, including $5,667,000 for a new bridge over the Bourbeuse River, $8,208,080.21 for the roadway, $180,000 for utility relocation and $2,809,000 for right of way acquisition.
“(Realignment) is obviously the biggest cog in the wheel, as far as expense,” said Tim Brinker, Franklin County commissioner. “It’s great that we have some numbers to apply to that aspect of it. “As a core committee we will still encompass that whole plan — it’s great that the additional exposure is there,” he added.
The largest obstacle now, Brinker continued, is funding the improvements.
“Transportation funding is going to be key — we need to urge any and all, be it the state, federal or local level, to make sure we push for our transportation dollars to improve safety and the transportation we have.”
Bill Straatmann, chairman of the committee, who serves on the St. Louis Regional Freight District board of directors alongside Brinker, explained that the primary obstacle identified in making Highway 47 a “freight corridor” was the Highway 47 bridge over the Missouri River. Now, that’s not the case.
“We have to continue to push for that (Highway 50, 47) intersection,” said Straatmann. “That would be the only intersection that could be a key problem.
“I guess the question for the community, is are we ready for this?” he asked. “Are we ready for a freight corridor?”
Wagner added congestion issues on Highway 47 from I-70 to I-44, in both directions, should be the focus when addressing freight movement.
“The congestion is causing safety issues which causes a delay in freight movement,” she said.
“Now that the weight limit is removed from this bridge, it will become a congestion issue, just like 270 North is listed in the freight plan as a congestion issue — now that’s going to take over from the bridge.”
Wagner added that Franklin County will be competing for freight funding with other areas, such as downtown St. Louis, where there also are congestion issues.
She further added that once the bridge is completed, there likely will be trailers carrying freight parked roadside in Franklin and Warren counties as they make there way to interstates.
She cited Highway 47 and Steutterman Road, where bridge girders were parked for a short time before they were set.
“They are going to get into this community, maybe spend the night, park a load on the side of the road, before they go into metropolitan areas,” Wagner said.
Mayor Sandy Lucy questioned if Washington should provide places to park in these situations.
“They will find the places where to park. You will just start noticing,” Wagner answered.
Washington Director of Public Services John Nilges said there should not be concern by city officials of providing resources to drivers.
“I wouldn’t think we will see an influx every day,” he said. “It will be intermittent. There are areas in town, or just outside (to park). I don’t think we need to add facilities.”