Katy Bridge at Boonville: Federal board rules in favor of state; agreement to preserve bridge close

 

 
The original agreement that created the Katy Trail left ownership of the bridge with the MKT Railroad (later acquired by Union Pacific) but gave the state of Missouri a perpetual right to use the bridge as part of the Katy Trail.  This complex agreement has been described by negotiators as key to making the whole agreement to create the Katy Trail work.  That state at that point could not take over liability for the bridge--essentially the responsibility to demolish and remove it at some future point, an expensive endeavor--so the negotiators solved that problem by leaving ownership of the bridge with the railroad but giving the state the right to use the bridge as part of the trail.
Boonville Bridge
Boonville Bridge
The problem began in the early 2000s, when the Coast Guard declared the MKT bridge a hazard to navigation and demanded that it be removed.
 
At first the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) took a position opposing the bridge's removal, saying that removal of the bridge would impinge on their right to use the bridge as part of the Katy Trail.
 
But when Governor Matt Blunt was elected in 2004, DNR reversed its position, writing a letter that stated that DNR was giving up its right to use the bridge for trail use and Union Pacific was welcome to remove the bridge.
 
Jay Nixon, then Missouri Attorney General issued a statement challenging DNR's authority to give up the state's rights in the bridge and asserting that the state still had rights in the bridge.
 
This set off a complicated set of events between the railroad, the state, the City of Boonville, the Coast Guard, the federal Surface Transportation Board (which has authority over railroads) and others.
 

 Though it may be a mute point if the city of Boonville decides to take ownership and restore the Katy Bridge, the Surface Transportation Board ruled in the state's favor, declaring Union Pacific had to comply with National Historic Preservation Act requirements before abandoning the bridge.

The requirements outlined in a proposed agreement between the Coast Guard and the state include that Union Pacific:

— pay $20,000 to the city of Boonville for commemoration of the bridge;

— allow the historic preservation office and other parties the opportunity to select bridge artifacts for preservation;

— and produce a historical narrative and photo documentation of the bridge.
 
The years of legal haggling faded last February as Gov. Nixon stood in Boonville and announced an agreement to preserve the Katy Bridge and provide $22.6 million in stimulus funding for a bridge over the Osage River.
 
More than a year later, the state and Union Pacific both have approved the agreement and await the city's approval.
 
Third Ward Councilman Chris Hombs estimated earlier this week it could be five or six months before the Council votes on the agreement. He said city officials have changed the language of parts of the agreement which deal in whether the city will spend money on the project. If approved by City Council, the revised agreement would still need Union Pacific and the state's approval.