Union Expressway

A recent study found no mussel beds in the part of the Bourbeuse River where the city of Union would like to build a bridge. But other activity has raised eyebrows.

The study was required as part of the permit process for the proposed $12 million Union Expressway. Union City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann announced the finding at the Thursday, Oct. 8, Franklin County Transportation Committee meeting.

“From what I understand, they go into the stream and they dig and look for mussels in the road alignment,” Zimmermann said of the study, after the meeting.

The finding was important because it means Union will not have to deal with paying to move the mussel beds, Zimmermann said. The board of aldermen approved spending $16,063 on the survey services for the mussels and could have spent another $14,093 to relocate them if they were found in that area.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the 154-mile Bourbeuse River is among the better environments for mussels in Missouri. It is home to around 38 species of freshwater mussels, several of them endangered.

Officials were ready to put the mussel issue to bed.

“It’s some mussel fatigue, if you will,” Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said.

Meanwhile, as Missouri Department of Natural Resources personnel were responding to a report of an unrelated mussel kill on the Bourbeuse, they found a homeless encampment with three tents, Zimmermann said. Homelessness has been an issue in Union and elsewhere in the area recently with reports of illegal and lewd activity around parks.

“We’ve been trying to figure out what we can do with that issue,” he said.

No one was able to determine what killed the mussels.

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) officials in Jefferson City are now reviewing plans for a roundabout on the north end of the Union Expressway, where it will meet back up with Highway 47 near Old County Farm Road.

“We’ve got to be comfortable with it, so, really, I’m not pushing them,” Stephen O’Connor, MoDOT area engineer for Franklin and Jefferson counties, told Zimmermann.

The East-West Gateway Council of Governments recently 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.