Removing Katy Bridge at Boonville will endanger entire Katy Trail

The recent resignation of a top Missouri Department of Natural Resources official, Ron Kucera, in protest of Governor Blunt's handling of the Katy Bridge at Boonville issue has issued a wake-up call to the Missouri government.

Kucera was deeply involved in the original negotiations with Union Pacific Railroad that led to the creation of the Katy Trail.

Kucera's point is that the decision to remove or keep the bridge is not just a local issue. Rather, it is a decision that will have statewide ramifications that could seriously endanger the entire Katy Trail.

This issue has now had press coverage in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, the Columbia Tribune, the Springfield News-Leader, the Belleville News-Democrat, and other media outlets around the state.

Kansas City Star columnist Mike Hendricks summarizes the issue succinctly:

Under federal law, railroad rights of way used for trails must be kept intact, in the event train service is ever reinstated.

Therefore, some employees in the Natural Resources department under Blunt argued that removing the bridge was illegal and opened up the trail's very existence to challenge.

On the other hand, appointees loyal to the governor maintain that merely allowing for construction of another bridge would be enough to be in compliance.

Who is right? Who knows?

DNR Director Doyle Childers acknowledged to me on Thursday that he made the decision in favor of the Union Pacific without getting a definitive answer.

“I know that some folks (within the Blunt administration) are still looking at the issue,” Childers said in a telephone interview. “Is it adequate to have the right of way there, or do you have to have the bridge?”

Seems to me you'd want a definitive answer to that before selling out to the railroad.

A further serious problem, outlined in a Columbia Daily Tribune article, comes from a former executive with the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (KATY) Railroad, who was involved in the negotiations to transfer the line to the state:

[the] former executive . . . has come forward to say she believes dismantling the bridge would be illegal.

Raye Reynolds, a former vice president of the MKT Railroad, said she signed the Interim Trail Use Agreement as well as the quit-claim deed in 1987 on behalf of the railroad. The agreement says the bridge must stay put, she said. She was shocked to learn anyone was considering its removal.

"I probably know more about the trail than most people," said Reynolds, who lives in Farmers Branch, Texas. "I think" plans to dismantle the bridge "are being pushed through without a serious look at the document."

The Missouri Bicycle Federation urges the Department of Natural Resources and the Governor's office to thoroughly investigate this issue before proceeding.

Taking an action that endangers the entire Katy Trail would not be good public policy.

If you contact the Missouri Governor's office on this issue, please be polite and persuasive.

The "ask" now would be for them to thoroughly investigate this issue before proceeding.

Governor Matt Blunt
(573) 751-3222
mogov@mail.mo.gov

Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Doyle Childers, director
oac@dnr.mo.gov
1-800-361-4827

Previous MoBikeFed News coverage here and here.