Negotiations over Boonville Bridge continue

Boonville area residents who support keeping in the Boonville Bridge in place have asked Senator Claire McCaskill to help them negotiate a solution to the bridge problem with Union Pacific, which owns the bridge. The bridge is part of the Katy railroad corridor but is not currently used as part of the Katy Trail.

According to a Columbia Tribune article:
One day last month, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill huddled in her Washington, D.C., office with Jim Young, CEO of Union Pacific Railroad.

The discussion topic was the unused bridge that spans the Missouri River at Boonville. Union Pacific plans to dismantle it and use some of its steel to construct another bridge to carry freight and Amtrak passengers over the Osage River.

McCaskill’s office has received more than 100 letters from Boonville residents who want the bridge preserved where it is. They believe it’s a notable historic artifact, a potential tourist attraction and a valuable link in the Katy Trail. . . .

Those who want to save the bridge say it could become the Katy Trail’s "crown jewel," providing a unique way to hike and bike across the Missouri River. They also point to the engineering significance of the bridge’s 408-foot-long center lift span, which was the longest of its kind in the country when the bridge opened in 1932.

But there are other perspectives as well. Allowing Union Pacific to reuse its truss spans would be an environmentally friendly way of keeping the old bridge alive in a new structure. Recycled steel would help haul more freight faster and more efficiently over the second Osage River span.

UP officials told McCaskill that the project would improve Amtrak’s often-delayed service between St. Louis and Jefferson City. Currently, the railroad’s Osage River crossing is the only place on the UP system between the two cities where the line squeezes down to one track from two.
There is another important perspective as well: Removing the Boonville Bridge without taking steps to preserve the legal status of the Katy railroad corridor through that area weakens the legal status of approximately 160 miles of the existing Katy Trail.

The Katy Trail is a railbanked railroad line. A railbanked trail enjoys legal protection under federal law, but only as long as the railbanked line remains connected with the nation's active rail network.

Removing the bridge without taking the proper legal steps to maintain the legal continuity of the railroad corridor removes several connections the Katy corridor has with the active rail network, leaving a 160-mile segment of the railroad with only one connection to the active rail network--at its far eastern end.

If any section of the Katy is disconnected from the active rail network that section will lose its railbanked status and potentially revert to adjoining property owners.

A potential solution has been suggested which could please all parties in the Boonville Bridge dispute:

* Union Pacific could remove the side spans of the bridge only, saving UP considerable money and improving rail service by creating another Osage River bridge.

* The main lift span could be left in place, allowing Boonville area citizens to develop this portion of the bridge as a tourist attraction

* An Interim Trail Agreement could be made with Union Pacific, similar to the Interim Trail Agreement currently in place that creates the Katy Trail. This would create the legal framework needed to keep the Katy railroad corridor together as one continuous piece from Clinton to Machens.

* The agreement would allow the bridge piers and abutments to be kept in place. These abutments could then be used to support a (relatively) inexpensive trail bridge.