BOONVILLE — A group that fought to save an unused central Missouri railroad bridge from demolition is now raising money to repair the span with hopes of adding it to the 237-mile Katy Trail for hikers and bikers.
The Katy Bridge Coalition is starting modestly with a campaign in the next few months to sell the remaining $32,000 in state tax credits awarded to the city of Boonville, which now owns the Missouri River span, to redevelop the 82-year-old bridge.
Over the next decade, the group aims to raise $6 million for the extensive repairs needed to make the bridge a usable part of the popular trail that follows the old, east-west route of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported.
"It's a great project, a great tool for economic development for our region," said coalition spokeswoman Karen Ratay. "Think of the bridge as the jewel of the Katy Trail. It's fun for family recreation and all kinds of things."
The group was known as the Save the Katy Bridge Coalition when it formed in 2005. The bridge — which had not carried trains since 1986 — was threatened by plans for a much-needed second railroad crossing over the Osage River east of Jefferson City.
Union Pacific, which had bought the old MKT railroad, planned to dismantle the Katy Bridge and use the steel in the new span. But then-Attorney General Jay Nixon began a lengthy legal fight that eventually stopped the work. Nixon — by then Missouri's governor — announced in 2010 that Union Pacific had agreed to give the Katy Bridge to the city of Boonville after federal stimulus funds were awarded for the Osage River bridge.
Redevelopment is planned in four phases, starting with replacement of a missing 62-foot section and other repairs that will make it safe for pedestrians. The most ambitious work will involve replacing the historic lift that raised the bridge's central section to allow barges and boats on the Missouri to pass underneath.
The Katy Bridge Coalition has raised $350,000 to date and will use social media to promote the campaign, said coalition president Sarah Gallagher.
"The generation that is going to use this bridge is going to use social media, and so we have to use what they're using to reach out," Gallagher said.