At the start of 2019, the city of Union was looking for traction when it came to improving traffic at Highway 47 and Highway 50.
For years the busy intersection had created a traffic problem for the city. Thousands of cars passed through daily and at busy times traffic would get backed up on north Highway 47.
At the end of 2019 the project has moved forward.
The project started advancing in mid 2018. The Highway 47 Corridor Committee, comprised of representatives from Franklin County, St. Clair, Union, Washington, Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and others, has been meeting regularly to look into traffic issues on the road.
A study of the 13-mile Highway 47 corridor from the Missouri River in Washington, through Union and on to St. Clair was presented to MoDOT in August 2018.
Before the study was published, Union officials discussed a cost estimate for a realignment project. The proposed project carried a rough cost estimate of nearly $17 million.
Armed with a study and a cost estimate, City Administrator Russell Rost said heading into 2019 his goal was to move the project forward. Twelve months later, he said the project has momentum.
“We’re beginning to move toward a possible completion in three to four years versus MoDOT maybe putting it on their priority list in 2042,” he said. “That’s a pretty big step, but there’s a lot of work left to be done.”
The plan being pushed now is the Union Expressway project. A joint project between Franklin County and the city would see Highway 47 realigned and a new bridge built over the Bourbeuse River.
“I’m pretty positive about it,” Rost said. “All of the cities in the county have supported it, so that’s good. It’s something that really can be done, as long as we get the support and funds from the feds and MoDOT.”
Rost said he had been skeptical of the project — at least until recently. He said he looked at the study and just saw options for solution, but not a concrete solution.
At that point, MoDOT told him to meet with an engineering firm and see if the picture could clear up. After getting the county to sign on as a partner, the city met with Cochran, Union, to review possible solutions.
“Cochran looked at it and they came up with this design,” Rost said. “When I first met with them even then I was still skeptical. When they started showing me the data they had and the calculations, it became very obvious that what they have will work and will offer a solution to the problem.”
At some point in early 2020 the city will apply for federal funds. Rost said the project will die without federal money.
“We need to obtain funding from the federal government, set aside funds to meet the city’s obligation of $2 million — we have three years to do that,” he said.
The city recently hired Cochran and SCI Engineering, Inc. to work on applications related to the project. Cochran will assist the city in applying for federal funds while SCI will work on environmental studies.
The city is confident it will receive federal funding. All other municipalities in the county agreed to sit out the 2020 round of funding requests in order to improve Union’s chances of getting the funds.
According to an estimate provided by Cochran, the project is expected to carry a $10,209,738.01 price tag. That includes $7,882,280 for construction alone. The rest of the money is split between right-of-way acquisition, design work, inspections and testing and a contingency fund.
The city expects to be the only grant applicant from Franklin County. All other municipalities have told the city they won’t be applying this year.
Franklin County and Union both will work to secure funding to create a mile-long, two-lane expressway to bypass the intersection of Highways 50 and 47 in Union. The Union Expressway also would realign the northern section of Highway 47 to meet in a straight line with the southern portion.
The city will be tasked with constructing the Union Expressway while the county will build a roundabout on Highway 47.
The roadway portion of the expressway includes a 2,000-foot section of bridge over the Bourbeuse River and corresponding flood plain.
The design of the expressway will run from Highway 47 at Old County Farm Road to the current alignment of south Highway 47 at Highway 50. The northern end of the expressway will feature a two-lane roundabout on Highway 47 and the southern portion will culminate in a four-way stop intersection.
The city is seeking federal grants for $6,936,406, making the local share approximately $3,273,332.
The roundabout carries an estimated price tag of $1,978,915.60. The county also will apply for grant funds, with a local share of about $660,003.
The total local share for the roadway and roundabout would be $3,933,335. The city and county both agreed to a 50/50 split of the local share if both grants are awarded.
The agreement is void if the grants are not received.