Update on Boonville MKT Bridge lawsuit

The lawsuit over the fate of the Katy Bridge at Boonville continues to develop. Local residents want to make the bridge part of the Katy Trail and a tourist attraction. Union Pacific wants to move the bridge and use it elsewhere. Katy Trail supporters worry that removing the bridge will remove a margin of safety for the legal status of the entire trail.

(Note: If you want to support the Katy Trail and the effort to save the Katy Bridge at Boonville, the best thing you can do right now is to support the Katy Trail as a whole by participating in MoBikeFed's Complete The Katy Trail email campaign.)

Last week's Pitch Weekly had a long article about the bridge lawsuit. The article doesn't exactly mince words:
Although the path doesn't go over the bridge, it's still part of the railroad's right of way. And the state has held its owner, Union Pacific Railroad, to an agreement that prevents the company from doing anything with it.

However, our esteemed boy governor, Matt Blunt, has decided to risk the Katy Trail's very existence so that Union Pacific, one of his campaign contributors, can dismantle the bridge and reuse its steel, saving the company $10 million.
Several news outlets, including the Columbia Tribune, reported that the judge in the lawsuit has granted a change in venue. This may be bad news for supporters of the lawsuit--it moves the suit to less friendly territory in Jefferson City and also includes a ruling that the case does not revolve around property rights--an issue that may be important to the technical details of Attorney General Jay Nixon's argument that DNR Director Childers cannot simply give away the state's rights in the bridge:
Kramer said "the bottom line" is that the lawsuit filed in May isn’t about real estate or whether the state has an easement on the 73-year-old railroad bridge over the Missouri River.

The lawsuit, he said, is about whether DNR Director Doyle Childers has "the authority to convey, amend or otherwise extinguish rights" established in a 1987 agreement between the state and the bridge’s then-owner, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.

"It is my intent to issue a motion to change venues" on Wednesday to Cole County, he said.
Finally, DNR Director Doyle Childers issued a statement outlining the DNR's position about the Boonville Bridge, reported in today's Kansas City infoZine:
The State of Missouri cannot afford the liability and financial responsibility for the bridge. The Department of Natural Resources made the decision over a decade ago to not use the bridge because the cost of refurbishing the bridge, and the long-term fiscal liability of operating and maintaining the bridge over the navigable channel of the Missouri River, is too expensive and cannot be justified when there are trail needs more pressing than duplicating an existing trail.

The Department of Natural Resources would rather do whatever it can to use its limited resources to extend the Katy Trail into the Kansas City area.

The Attorney General is suing the Department of Natural Resources, saying the state should take responsibility for the financial and legal liability on the bridge. This liability is an unknown number in the millions of dollars. It is difficult to go forward using the limited resources the State of Missouri has to make commitments to extending the Katy Trail into the Kansas City area when the Attorney General is trying to force the department to spend an inordinate amount of money unconstitutionally on a structure the State of Missouri does not own.

Removing the bridge in no way endangers the existence of Katy Trail State Park. It is undisputed that the railroad owns the bridge and is entitled to the rights of ownership of its property. The state has no right of ownership other than an option to use the bridge. The state declined to exercise this option 15 years ago because it would duplicate an existing trail at the site. The best solution is for private entities to step in, provided they can persuade Union Pacific to keep the bridge in place and maintain the trail.
(Please note that this release contains several inaccurate and misleading statements of its own. Important facts can be checked by consulting the original documents that created the Katy Trail, which the Missouri Bicycle Federation has made available on its web site.)