More time sought to save bridge

Sunday, September 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The state attorney general’s office is trying to buy more time for a historic railroad bridge in Boonville that is slated for demolition.

Attorney General Jay Nixon sent a letter Friday to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking to extend the period for public comment until Nov. 18. The period was slated to end at 5 p.m. Friday.

After a public meeting Thursday in Boonville, Union Pacific Railroad, the bridge’s owner, and the U.S. Coast Guard made clear their opinions that removing the bridge was the safest and most economic decision.

But extending the period for public comment would allow more time to discuss ideas about the fate of the bridge, said Scott Holste, spokesman for the attorney general.

“We just want to enable more discussion and examination to what was to be done to the bridge,” Holste said. “It’s very historic, and there are many groups in Boonville and the surrounding area who care about it.”

The Corps of Engineers is responsible for releasing the final permit that would allow Union Pacific to remove the bridge. As of Saturday, the corps had not decided whether to extend the public-comment period.

If the request to extend the comment period is denied, the attorney general’s office will continue to research other legal avenues, Holste said.

“We have three attorneys doing legal research on this issue,” he said. “We will do legal research until we answer our own questions about it.”

Holste said he would not discuss specifics of the legal issues being examined.

Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman, who wants to save the bridge and make it part of the cross-state Katy Trail State Park, said Friday that he is pleased discussion of the bridge’s fate continues.

“It is going to become apparent how many people are interested in saving the bridge,” Hindman said. “It’s interesting how you need to reach a certain point before the public acts.”

The bridge was originally part of the MKT Trail that has been converted into the Katy Trail. The trail bypasses the bridge and instead crosses the highway bridge in Boonville.

Hindman said that at one time, the bridge was offered to the state by Union Pacific. The state declined due to the responsibilities of ownership, including maintenance and liabilities, he said.

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