Group sues over Katy Bridge at Boonville giveaway

The Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has filed suit on the issue of the Katy Bridge at Boonville. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has signed an agreement giving the bridge, which is part of the Katy railroad right-of-way, to Union Pacific.

Union Pacific wants to dismantle the bridge and use it in another location.

A group of Boonville area residents wants to retain the bridge, refit it as a bicycle/pedestrian bridge, and make it into an area tourist attraction. A political group has started a petition that has raised over 2300 signatures in support of keeping the bridge.

Many familiar with the arcane rules of federal railbanking law--the law that allows rail corridors to be converted for use as rail trails--worry that giving away the Katy Bridge right-of-way and removing the bridge will endanger the railbanked status of the entire trail.

According to the AP article:
"I've been a longtime user of the Katy Trail, mostly bicycling but also some hiking, and I've ridden many, many miles," the lawsuit's lead plaintiff, Ken Midkiff, said Tuesday. "It was my concern that any severance of the trail might jeopardize the entire trail." . . .

"There is absolutely no substance to the argument that the removal of that bridge could create a severance of the trail," said Kurt Schaefer, DNR's deputy director and general counsel. "The trail doesn't go over the bridge, it's never gone over the bridge. So there's no interference with any rights they would have as users of the trail." . . .

At issue in both the new lawsuit and Nixon's is a 1987 agreement in which the state obtained 200 miles of rail line from the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad under a federal law that lets abandoned rail beds get turned into trails -- so long as they are preserved for potential railroad use in the future.

The deal specifically excluded the Boonville bridge from the sale. But it gave the state the right to use the bridge for the trail if it assumed liability on terms acceptable to the railroad. . . .

That's one reason the environmental group decided to file its own lawsuit, said the group's attorney, Bruce Morrison.

"They want the court to see this is not a political battle between two individuals who hope to be governor, but that the trail is of importance -- as is the bridge -- to the users of the trail," Morrison said

The environmental group sued after the Department of Natural Resources opposed its attempt to filed a friend of the court brief in Nixon's original suit.
Several points made in this story demand further analysis--find that analysis here.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation has provided a simple explanation of the complex legal issues surrounding the Katy Bridge issue here.

This new lawsuit was also covered in the Columbia Missourian and the Kansas City Star.

Previous news coverage here and here.

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