Katy Trail Interim Trail Agreement and Agreement Revisions

Negotiations between the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Union Pacific Railroad regarding the MKT railroad bridge near Boonville have a potential impact on the viability of the entire Katy Trail.

Finding the facts about this important issue requires knowing exactly what the original Katy Trail Interim Agreement says and exactly how the DNR and Union Pacific have now modified the agreement. 

Boonville MKT Bridge
Boonville MKT Bridge


The Katy Trail is "railbanked". That means simply that it is a rail corridor that has not been abandoned, but which is being held in reserve for (possible) future reactivation is a rail corridor. In the meanwhile DNR can use it as a trail.

This type of trail use is a so-called "interim use".

Any action which disturbs the railbanked status of the Katy railroad corridor therefore may endanger all or part of the trail.

PDF files of the original documents relating to the creation of the Katy Trail:

The sections of these documents relevant to the MKT Bridge at Boonville use are these:

1. The Interim Trail Agreement, signed 25 June 1987, lists all properties and parcels that will be conveyed to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR). Then it lists some parcels that will be excluded from this transfer, including the MKT Bridge at Boonville:

Excepting and excluding from the said conveyance all of MKT's interest in the following described parcels of land and/or structures: . . . 

MKT's Boonville lift bridge, being MKT's Bridge No. 191.1 across the Missouri River at Boonville, Missouri. MKT agrees that said bridge shall be kept available for transportation purposes in accordance with ICC decision ex parte No. 274 (Sub.-No. 13) and that MDNR upon execution of waivers of liability acceptable to MKT may utilize the bridge for trail purposes; provided, however, that MKT reserves the right to modify the bridge structure as may be required to improve rail transportation, so long as MDNR's right to utilize the premises for interim trail use is not adversely affected thereby.

Note: ICC docket reference 274 is the general rulemaking by the Interstate Commerce Commission, now known as the Surface Transportation Board, that adopted rules and regulations regarding railbanking, as directed by the US Congress. So essentially the agreement is saying that MKT (which, since 1987, has been acquired by Union Pacific) retains ownership of the bridge but MDNR retains two important, but separate, rights:

  • The right to keep the bridge in place as part of a continuous railbanked corridor, meeting all requirements of the Surface Transportation Board
  • At MDNR's discretion, the right to use the bridge as part of the Katy Trai.

2. The Amendment to the Katy Trail Interim Agreement, dated 28 April 2005, reads:


By separate document MDNR [the Missouri Department of Natural Resources] will release its right under paragraph 6 of the Agreement to utilize the Boonville lift bridge (MKT Bridge No. 191.1) for trail purposes, and agrees that UP [Union Pacific] may consummate the abandonment of the bridge and remove it, at UP's sole cost.

Note: "Abandonment" is a legal term with a specific meaning under laws pertinent to railbanking. In short, it means that MDNR is giving UP permission to remove the MKT Bridge at Boonville from railbanked status. This means that the Katy Rail corridor will be severed and will consist of two independent segments, one west of Boonville and one east of Boonville.

It was precisely to prevent this kind of severance of the railbanked corridor that the state, in the original agreement required the railroad to keep the bridge available for transportation purposes.

Under the terms of the original agreement, Union Pacific could not remove the MKT Bridge at Boonville. The removal of the bridge required an amendment to the original agreement, and this amendment requires the state to give up to the two rights, outlined above, that were reserved to it by the original Interim Trail Agreement.

3. Union Pacific's "Consummation of Abandonment" letter A full discussion of this document and its ramifications is here.