Boonville Bridge issue continues to roil Missouri politics

An
Katy Trail in Winter by
article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch gives further details about the Boonville bridge issue:
Meanwhile, the combatants fighting over the future of the historic Boonville railroad bridge continue to stare each other down.

Removing the bridge threatens the Katy Trail, opponents say. The trail is considered an interim use on a corridor that could be used again for railroad purposes. If the bridge goes, however, it would leave a section of the corridor without a connection to another rail line.

That could push the door wide open to landowners living along the trail to reclaim the railroad easement.

Ron Kucera, the former No. 3 official at the Department of Natural Resources who quit over the state’s handling of the bridge, said last week that "to remove the bridge is a devastating blow."

Union Pacific wants to recycle part of the bridge to build a crossing on the Osage River near Jefferson City, a move that will save it about $10 million.

Blunt and top officials at the Department of Natural Resources insist the bridge belongs to the railroad and was specifically left out of the 1987 interim trail use agreement.

"We said, ‘No, we are not going to use it,’" Childers said. "And any interest we have in it, we are not going to put a trail across that bridge."

The case is pending.
As usual in these press discussions, the DNR's portrayal of the situation leaves out crucially important issues.

The Boonville Bridge was "left out" of the Interim Trail Agreement in the sense that Union Pacific retained ownership of the bridge. However, the DNR retained two (count them, TWO) important rights.

Mr. Childers mentions one of the two rights in this sentence: "And any interest we have in it, we are not going to put a trail across that bridge."

OK, the DNR has no interest in putting a trail across the bridge. We don't need a trail across the bridge for Katy Trail use--the nearby highway bridge is perfectly functional.

So what is the big deal?

The big deal is, the second right retained by the DNR, the right to have Union Pacific keep the bridge intact "for transportation use" is very important for maintaining the legal basis of the Katy Trail.

The Katy corridor is "railbanked" and to retain railbanked status every point of the rail corridor must retain a connection with the active national rail system.

Removing the Boonville Bridge and abandoning that section of the railroad corridor cuts off long sections of the corridor from rail interconnections.

As the nation's leading rails-to-trails attorney told the DNR last January:
Construction in St. Charles County already had caused one breach. Removing the Boonville bridge would leave the section from Boonville to St. Charles without a connection to an existing rail line, creating a legal loophole for landowners to reclaim their railroad easements.
Read more about this important but technical issue in a previous MoBikeFed News post.