Boonville bridge supporters hang on after Supreme Court decision

Sunday, February 24, 2008 | 9:05 p.m. CST; updated 1:51 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
The Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit last week to protect the Missouri River Bridge in Boonville built in 1931. The bridge's owner, Union Pacific, intends to tear the bridge down and use sections in another bridge.

BOONVILLE — The legal battle to save an old railroad bridge over the Missouri River in Boonville has reached the end of the line.

But those who want to preserve the more than 70-year-old structure say the fight isn’t over.

“We’re still hanging in there,” said Paula Shannon, who has led the Save the Katy Bridge Coalition since it began in 2004. “We would like to negotiate with Union Pacific and actually be able to hold this as a historic landmark for Boonville and the state of Missouri and the railroad.”

Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Jay Nixon that aimed to preserve the bridge.

The Union Pacific Railroad Co., which owns the bridge, plans to take apart the bridge and use the pieces to build another bridge over the Osage River near Jefferson City.

Nixon sued the Department of Natural Resources in 2003 to challenge the agency’s decision to relinquish the state’s rights to the bridge.

The lawsuit was dismissed in the state’s Western District Court of Appeals.

“(The Supreme Court decision) brings an end to the legal battle,” said Scott Holste, a spokesman for Nixon’s office. “At this point we’re not going to advance any other theories at this point that might be raised by others to try to save the bridge.”

But activists in Boonville are not standing down.

The movable bridge has crossed the Missouri River in Boonville since 1932, and many residents say it is the city’s landmark.

“Of course I was very disappointed by the (court’s decision), but I guess what I would say is we’ll wait and try to see if we can’t explore other approaches,” said Dale Reesman, the attorney representing Boonville in the case.

The coordinating committee for the meeting, Save the Katy Bridge Coalition Inc, raised S400,000 in pledges to pay for renovating the bridge for use on the Katy Trail.

But that was before Tuesday’s decision, and now the group must bring Union Pacific to the table to move forward, which they have not done in the past.

“We’re continuing to reach out for support, be it from community members, legislatures, et cetera,” Shannon said. “We haven’t closed up and folded up our tents and gone home yet.”

She declined to say how she would bring Union Pacific to the table. In 2004, the company signed a $9.8 million contract with Fulton-based OCCI Inc. to dismantle the bridge.

James Barnes, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said the company welcomed the court’s decision.

“As it relates to the trial, we are pleased about the decision, but we have not had time to determine next steps,” he said.

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