Union Expressway

The proposed Union Expressway project took another step forward Monday, Feb. 8, with the Union Board of Aldermen’s approval of a contract with the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, the six-member board that governs the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT).

But the city of Union still has some potential roadblocks to deal with before construction starts.

The agreement paves the way for the next steps in the $12.2 million project, including a public meeting in March, according to a project schedule. The approval of right-of-way plans is expected later this year, with the acquiring of the right of way expected in 2022.

The project is scheduled to go out for bid late next year, with construction taking place in 2023.

Union is receiving federal funding through MoDOT for the roadway and bridge connecting the intersection of Highway 47 south at Highway 50 to Highway 47 to the north, near Old County Farm Road.

Franklin County is receiving funding to pay for a roundabout at the northwest intersection.

The city also will need to come up with $762,000 to pay for the remainder of its $1.9 million share of the expressway project, City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann told aldermen at a Monday, Feb. 1, committee meeting. It has until May 2023, when construction is expected to start, to have all the money together.

Because the city will have to pay the initial cost of the project before being reimbursed, Zimmermann said Union will have to pay about $1.5 million per month during construction.

“We’re going to have to have another method to pay bills during this project,” he said. “It takes a certain amount of time to be reimbursed from the federal government.”

That means the city will have to get a third party involved, Zimmermann said. “We’re probably going to have to go through some sort of banking institution in order to do this,” he said. “It’s just because the number gets so big. We don’t have $5 million we can put in an account and make payments out of.”

Zimmermann also told the board the city will be required to pay for a consultant who works for MoDOT as part of the project. The consultant will inspect the work done within MoDOT’s right of way. “I’ve asked for a scope and I’ve asked for an approximate cost,” Zimmermann said. “I don’t have that yet to bring to you, but that is a condition of this project.”

MoDOT also recently let the county know it had approved the roundabout portion of the Union Expressway project.

Last summer, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments moved forward a total of $8 million in federal grant money for the Union Expressway, as well as the adjacent roundabout, part of a list of regional projects receiving funding.

The Union Expressway projects were the only ones in Franklin County on East-West Gateway’s draft list for its fiscal year 2021-24 Transportation Improvement Program.

The project features the seven-tenths of a mile Union Expressway itself, which includes a new bridge over the Bourbeuse River and roadway connecting to the current south Highway 47 intersection with Highway 50. The city sought a $6.9 million grant for the $10.2 million expressway portion.

Drivers will exit Highway 47 on the north end at a proposed roundabout near the current intersection with Old County Farm Road. The county sought a $1.4 million grant for the roundabout, which has a total cost of nearly $2 million.

The roundabout is now expected to be located at Highway 47’s current intersection with Old County Farm Road, though that could change if new issues come up in the design.