Pact could pave way for new location of library branch

Council weighs agreement to fund Musick Road improvements

By Gloria Lloyd

With an agreement nearly in place for road improvements and a closing date set for next month, St. Louis County Library officials are moving forward with their plans for the new location of the Tesson Ferry Branch Library.

A bill up for preliminary approval at the County Council meeting on Tuesday — after the Call went to press — could pave the way for a three-way contract with the county, the library and developer McBride Berra for improvements to Musick Road that will allow construction of the new library to go forward as previously planned, at the corner of Gravois and Musick roads in Affton.

The county Department of Highways and Traffic’s preliminary estimates project that the Musick improvements could cost $500,000 to $750,000, with the costs evenly split among the county, the library and McBride Berra, which plans to build two subdivisions on the property and currently owns the library site. The county will not know the final cost until bids have been taken and a contractor selected, after the current design phase.

Since the plans are so new, there is not yet an estimated start date for the project, Department of Highways and Traffic spokesman David Wrone told the Call.

Under the proposed agreement, the library and McBride Berra will combine to pay $200,000 on top of the Traffic Generation Assessment, or TGA, fees they will already contribute for their developments.

TGA fees are determined based on the number of parking spaces. With 182 parking spaces, the library is already slated to contribute $186,615 to the traffic fund.

“That intersection currently can’t handle the volume of traffic that it has — it’s not enough pavement and too many cars at this point. So strictly from a traffic-flow issue, it’s a much-needed improvement,” Wrone said. “But beyond that, the safety factor is bigger. So this is a win in several areas … a very productive partnership.”

The project, set to be completed around the same time the library opens in 2015 or 2016, includes three major improvements to Musick Road: widening Musick to make a right turn lane onto eastbound Gravois, cutting down a hill on Musick and upgrading the traffic signal at Musick and Gravois.

“The hill’s going to go away,” Wrone said. “That hill will be shaved down, if not removed entirely … They will literally take machines and carve it down with bulldozers.”

Once the projects are complete, the library will be cleared to build an entrance off Musick onto its new site. If the library is finished before the road work, library patrons would be able to enter the library through an entrance from McBride’s Grant’s View subdivision next door.

Library Executive Director Kristen Sorth has previously said she believes that the $20 million new library will be one of the most walkable and accessible of all the county’s libraries, with access to Grant’s Trail, expanded space and a glass wall facing Grant’s Farm across the road.

It will replace the existing 55-year-old library at 9920 Lin Ferry Drive in Green Park. After library officials sought rezoning of the new site, which is about two miles away, Green Park officials unsuccessfully approached the library Board of Trustees about keeping the library in Green Park.

After nearby residents raised their concerns about heavy traffic at the Gravois and Musick intersection at a public hearing on the new subdivision and the library last summer, the Department of Highways and Traffic required McBride Berra and the library to conduct a traffic study.

That study, done by traffic engineers Crawford, Bunte, Brammeier, found that even without the addition of the library and two new subdivisions, the heavily trafficked corner already met the county and state’s metrics to qualify for additional lanes and road upgrades.

Last fall, the library extended its closing date to purchase the property from McBride Berra to the end of February, in light of the delays over negotiations for road improvements. The library is purchasing the 4.29-acre site from the company for $2.9 million.

The Missouri Department of Transportation owns Gravois Road and plans some improvements to the intersection at a later date, also spurred by the results of the traffic study.

As of last month, library officials were still in negotiations with the state over those improvements. Sorth and Communications Director Jennifer McBride could not be reached before press time for an update on the state negotiations.