Possible Flood Change

A proposed change in floodplain level could impact the cost of the Union Expressway.

The proposed Union Expressway took a step toward getting federal funding.

The Union Expressway was one of four projects approved from 2019 applications by the transportation planning committee of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments (EWGW). The move gave the project a “minor arterial” classification.

The reclassification is needed to receive federal grants to help pay for the estimated $10.2 million project, City Administrator Russell Rost said.

“That bodes well for moving forward,” Rost said at a March 4 meeting of the city’s transportation committee.

Projects that make the transportation planning committee’s draft list are almost always approved by EWGW’s full board, said Jonathan Zimmermann, Union’s city engineer.

The city expects to know by June whether it is successful in getting the $6,936,406 in grant money that would include a new bridge over the Bourbeuse River and roadway connecting to the current south Highway 47 intersection.

Franklin County is applying for another grant, this one for $1,318,912, to pay for a two-lane roundabout at County Farm Road that would lead drivers to the new road.

The city and county will split the local match of the project, estimated to be just under $2 million each.

But the city is still a little nervous about two factors, Rost said. One is a study by federal and state emergency management that is looking at raising the area considered floodplain around the intersection of Highway 47 and Highway 50 from 515 feet above sea level to 519 feet. Zimmermann said the record flood at the site is 522 feet and the levee built near the Dickey Bub Farm & Home store is at 520 feet.

“From what I can see, FEMA is trying to figure out lots of different ways to raise their revenue for flood insurance,” said Steve Dickey, Union transportation committee chairman and Dickey Bub owner. “So the more people they push out into (the floodplain), the more revenue they’ll collect on it. That could be part of the motive.”

The other concern is that the Missouri Department of Transportation is looking at increasing the needed improvements the city is required to pay for at the intersection of Highway 50 and Highway 47 South.

“We thought it may be $200,000 or $300,000 in improvements, but it sounds like they may want something significantly more than that,” Rost said. “We’re still talking to them about that.”

The changes at the southern intersection could mean tearing up, rebuilding or adding lanes, Rost said.

Should the south intersection cost become significantly higher, the city might apply for another Surface Transportation Program grant next year to pay for the intersection, Rost said.

“If it’s in the neighborhood of $1 million, that would cost us $200,000, which still makes it affordable,” he said.

The city will know more after the preliminary engineering phase, which starts after the project gets final approval, Zimmermann said.

The other projects approved by EWGW’s transportation planning committee were two ramps on Highway 370 in St. Peters and a segment of Robert Avenue in Ferguson.

Union should be able to get to more than half of its roughly $2 million portion of the project on hand by the end of the next budget year, Rost said.

“That’ll definitely be enough to pay for design, probably procurements and right-of-way (acquisition),” Rost said.

Traffic congestion at Highway 47 and Highway 50 has long been an issue for the city of Union. Last year, the city and Franklin County teamed up and came up with the expressway plan to address the issue. The project need federal funding to move forward, and it will also stall without MoDOT support.

“Lots of hurdles, but it seems like you’re making good progress, got a good plan,” Dickey told city officials.