U.S. 63 rail bridge plan could save $1 million

An unused railroad bridge could redirect train traffic away from a dangerous U.S. 63 crossing, city staff say.
Monday, April 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:34 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A proposal to use an abandoned bridge to redirect trains at the COLT railway crossing on U.S. 63 could save the city $1 million, according to a report sent to the City Council on April 6.

The COLT crossing, which has caused many problems for drivers over the years, is “an accident waiting to happen,” said Dan Dasho, director of Columbia’s Water and Light Department. The speed limit on that section of the highway is 70 mph and many accidents, both train-related and non-train-related, have been reported there, including one fatality.

In September, the city agreed to direct staff to do a feasibility study to determine whether a railroad bridge could be constructed to direct trains over the highway.

After looking over proposals from three engineering firms, the city decided that a proposal from Transystems in Kansas City was the most effective both in terms of time and money.

The company proposed moving an abandoned bridge that’s located near I-35 in Cameron, rehabilitating it and then rebuilding it over the crossing on U.S. 63. The bridge, which has been abandoned since 1980, was built in the early 1960s and was previously used by the Burlington Northern Railroad.

The city agreed to that recommendation and will pay Transystems $60,000 to develop the plans.

The bridge is owned by Missouri Department of Transportation. City staff have discussed the proposal with the Transportation Department, and they are in favor of reusing the bridge, according to the report. Dasho said he’s not sure whether the Transportation Department will charge the city for the bridge.

The crossing is nearing the end of its useful life, the report stated, but simply replacing the existing crossing would not solve the safety issues.

“Simply refurbishing the old crossing would probably cost the city $250,000,” Dasho said.

The crossing is only used for four or five round trips per week, but Dasho said it is likely that could increase over the years.

Using the abandoned bridge is likely save the city $1 million, he said

“What we are (currently) trying to find out now is the exact cost of building this bridge,” said Dasho, who estimates that the cost could be about $5 million.

Once the bridge is in place, Dasho said it will last for about 50 years if it is properly maintained.

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