Abandonment of Boonville Bridge threatens Katy Trail

MoBikeFed received word today that Union Pacific railroad has moved to consummate the abandonment of the Boonville Bridge of the Katy railroad corridor. Most of the Katy corridor is used for Missouri's famed Katy Trail.

Issues surrounding the Boonville Bridge threaten the legal basis of the entire Katy Trail.

Union Pacific's move to consummate the abandonment of the Boonville Bridge was made on May 25, 2005. However, advocates working on the issue have learned about this development only recently.

Union Pacific's abandonment of the Boonville Bridge brings up several issues:

* If the abandonment stands, the Katy Corridor will be severed, for rail purposes, at that point. The original agreement that created the Katy Trail specific required the railroad to maintain the Boonville Bridge as available for transportation purposes. This was precisely to avoid creating a severance in the line at that point.

* In order to retain its railbanked status, each part of Katy rail corridor must remain "linked to and part of the interstate rail system" (see this court decision for a detailed explanation of the reasons for this). Severing the Katy corridor dramatically reduces the corridor's links to the interstate rail system, particularly for those parts of the trail east of Boonville.

* The "Certificate of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment" was issued to Union Pacific in 1987. Union Pacific issued the notice of consummation of abandonment in May 2005--18 years later. Normally the "Certificate of Abandonment" expires after one year. Therefore Union Pacific's consummation of that expired certificate of abandonment may be illegal and open to challenge.

Citizens of Boonville want to keep the Boonville Bridge in place and develop it as a tourist attraction. Whether the bridge is retained for such a use or the bridge structure itself is removed is not the issue that effects the legal status of the Katy Trail.

For instance, Union Pacific could assign the right of way of the Boonville Bridge to the Department of Natural Resources while removing the actual bridge structure. The actual bridge would be gone but from the legal perspective there would be no break in the Katy rail corridor and no threat to the existence of the trail as a whole.

What Union Pacific has done, though, is just the opposite. Though the bridge still stands, for now, the bridge has been "abandoned" and is no longer part of the interstate rail system.

The Katy rail corridor is now severed at that point. The Katy Trail now exists not on one continuous rail corridor but on two separate and distinct corridors.

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