Boonville envisions river bridge as centerpiece of Katy Trail

Monday, February 4, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:45 p.m. CST, Monday, February 4, 2013
This undated file photo shows the Boonville railroad bridge, which the city hopes will be used for pedestrian use as part of the Katy Trail. It links Cooper and Howard counties, crossing the Missouri River at Boonville.

BOONVILLE — Plans are in place to begin work early next year on transforming a historic railroad bridge into a centerpiece of the cross-state Katy Trail.

The railroad bridge, completed in 1932, was listed as one of the Most Endangered Historic Places of 2005 by the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation as the longest lift-span bridge in the U.S. at the time of construction.


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Union Pacific’s plans in 2004 to demolish the bridge and reuse the steel for a bridge in Osage City met opposition, and plans to dismantle the bridge were halted after the issue entered the courts.

After a protracted legal battle, ownership of the bridge was transferred on Jan. 7 from Union Pacific Railroad to the city of Boonville, with plans to open the bridge as a bicycle and pedestrian crossing once the multi-year project is completed. 

Irl Tessendorf, Boonville city administrator, has been involved with efforts to save the bridge since 2006.

“The goal is to have the bridge be appealing to more than just biking and recreation enthusiasts,” Tessendorf said. “We hope to make it a multifaceted attraction. I think people think this bridge can be a centerpiece for the Katy Trail and attract a lot of people to Boonville, and we can benefit from the increase in tourism.”

Bridge rehabilitation plans were drafted by an engineering firm that estimated the renovations would cost $3 million to $4 million. Construction will be divided into three phases, with the first phase beginning next year. 

After all three phases are complete, the bridge will connect via the trail to the highway bridge, completing the loop for pedestrians and bicyclists. In the future, plans could include use of the bridge to create a venue for events such as weddings, Tessendorf said.

The project will be financed through a combination of grants from the state and a fund created by the city of Boonville. The Save the Katy Bridge Coalition, a nonprofit organization that was started in 2005 to preserve the bridge, will contribute initial funds and raise additional money.

Phase one will cost an estimated $750,000 and includes plans to replace the missing span on the south end of the bridge to reconnect it to the existing bridge, Tessendorf said. The bridge is inaccessible without this end span.

The first phase will also include removing railroad ties and resurfacing part of the bridge. 

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2014 and will be a multi-year endeavor until all three phases are completed. “The rest of 2013 will be occupied with engineering design and bid preparation,” Tessendorf said.

Former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman said the bridge serves as a connection between Boonville and Franklin, where the Santa Fe Trail began. Hindman played an integral role in establishing the cross-state Katy Trail in the 1980s and has long been an advocate for redevelopment of the bridge and its continued presence on the trail.

“As long as Boonville has been associated with railroads, this bridge has been there,” Hindman said. “There’s an obvious historical tie between Boonville, the river and the railroad."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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Ellis Smith February 4, 2013 | 10:22 a.m.

If the bridge was "completed in 1932" it can hardly be 140 years old. Perhaps there were other railroad bridges before the present one. An article concerning the history of the river crossing at Boonville could be of interest.

(Report Comment)
Laura Johnston February 4, 2013 | 10:30 a.m.

@Ellis: We've corrected the error. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

Laura Johnston, senior news editor

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith February 4, 2013 | 12:48 p.m.

Laura Johnston:

You're welcome.

From prior articles on the bridge I was under the impression that the U. S. Coast Guard wanted the bridge removed because they considered its piers to be a navigational hazard. Maybe now that the bridge will actually be used, the Coast Guard has changed its mind.

There are some things that are presently 140+ years old. One is a campus in University of Missouri System that looks forward to celebrating its sesquicennial in 2020.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders February 4, 2013 | 1:45 p.m.

Funny how the biggest boondoggles always happen right after a society has peaked (a.k.a. "bubble popped"). I wonder, just how much has the tax-base (which will have to support the bridge) shrank since 2004? I wonder, without these revenue streams, exactly how do they intend to keep from going bankrupt? Maybe they'll do like Columbia, and only pave the streets once every fifty years (assuming you count ALL of them). Which is funny, as a fifty-year projection is nothing but a pipe-dream. But they ignore that fact, and carry on as if nothing is out of place, too busy rearranging deck chairs on their Titanic.

Someday the Boonville city administrators will have to make some tough budget choices. What they will find, is that this may likely be the straw that broke the budget camel's back.

This is the absolute LAST thing the victims known as Boonville residents need.

Then again, maybe they can prostitute themselves out to Uncle Sugar for a cut of the Federal Loot. As we all know, that's a cost-free solution!

(Report Comment)

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