Efforts to save the historic railroad bridge that spans the Missouri River at Boonville have new life.
The Boonville City Council has passed a resolution to preserve the bridge that Union Pacific plans to demolish as early as December.
The resolution cites the historical significance of the oldest lift-span bridge in the United States and its potential for tourism.
Boonville Mayor Danielle Blanck said the council is responding to interest from inside and outside the community to preserve the bridge, which hasn’t been used for 17 years.
“It’s one of a kind,” Blanck said. “There’s a lot more interest in the bridge than just Main Street Boonville.”
The bridge is part of the rail corridor converted into the cross-state Katy Trail State Park managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, but it hasn’t been accessible to trail users. Trail users now cross the river on a highway bridge.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources is seeking a meeting with Union Pacific to talk about the possibility of saving the bridge.
Union Pacific, in an Oct. 25 letter, said it is not willing to delay removal of the bridge unless the state agrees to assume “full responsibility” and liability for the bridge.
Dru Buntin of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources said more information is needed before the natural resources department and the city of Boonville can address whether the bridge could be used for transportation purposes again. He said the bridge would never be a state project alone but will need to be community-driven.
Buntin said the Department of Natural Resources wants to give Boonville “the opportunity to come up with a solution” as well as better understand what “full liability” means.
“We don’t know what the costs, interests or liabilities are,” Buntin said. “We just want to get all the interested parties in a room together and talk through the issues.”
Union Pacific has agreed to meet with the state and Boonville officials about the bridge, but a date hasn’t been set.
Blanck said that there are a lot of ideas for the bridge. Whether it becomes a part of the Katy Trail or a tourist attraction is a thought for another day, and so is the issue of funds.
“There’s no reason to expend a lot of effort or worry about the costs,” she said, “unless we know the bridge can be saved.”