BOONVILLE—One of two lawsuits filed in the fight over the Katy Bridge in Boonville has been permanently side railed after the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling Tuesday.
The lawsuit, filed by Ken Midkiff, the Missouri Sierra Club Conservation chairman, was dismissed by a Cole County Circuit Court judge in July 2006. The appeals court heard the appeal of the dismissal on April 5 and handed down its ruling without comment Tuesday. The appellate court upheld the lower court’s ruling unanimously.
May 2005: Attorney General Jay Nixon sued the Union Pacific Railroad, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and DNR director Doyle Childers to keep the bridge under state control. Six months later, in November, Missouri Sierra Club conservation chair Ken Midkiff and now state Sen. Jeff Smith, D-St. Louis, filed a similar suit against the same defendants. Smith is no longer a plaintiff in the suit. April 2006: Cole County Judge Byron Kinder ruled in the Nixon case that the state has to show compelling interest to keep the bridge intact. Two days later, Nixon filed an appeal. July 2006: Midkiff’s lawsuit is dismissed by Cole County Judge Byron Kinder. In August, Midkiff appealed the dismissal in the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals. September 2006: The appeals court allowed friend-of-the-court briefs from three former directors of the Department of Natural Resources, the former vice president of the MKT railroad and Pat Jones, who helped fund the creation of the Katy Trail State Park, supporting Nixon’s arguments. July 2007: The appeals court upheld the dismissal of Midkiff’s case.
The railroad announced plans in 2004 to dismantle the bridge and use the steel from it to build a new bridge near Jefferson City. Midkiff filed the suit against the Union Pacific Railroad and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources on behalf of trail users in November 2005.
Midkiff’s suit sought to keep the railroad from taking control of the bridge — also known as the Boonville Lift Bridge — and dismantling it. Six months before Midkiff filed his lawsuit, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a similar case against the Natural Resources Department and the railroad.
“What the court was looking at in the Midkiff case was whether the parties had standing to sue and whether this case could go forward with the attorney general’s case still going on,” said Bruce Morrison, Midkiff’s attorney. Morrison said his clients have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in Nixon’s case.
The Department of Natural Resources and Union Pacific both claim that the railroad company owns the bridge. Nixon and Midkiff claim the Rails to Trails Interim Use Agreement, which made the bridge part of the Katy Trail State Park, give the state a compelling interest in the bridge’s preservation.
Paula Shannon, a member of the Save the Katy Bridge Organization, told the Missourian in October 2006 that the bridge is historic and is one of the most photographed places in the area by tourists.
“The actual design of the lift bridge was the first of its kind and is still being used today,” Shannon said. “We want to share the history of the bridge and the MKT Railroad with the community. It has historic value.”
Cole County Judge Byron Kinder ruled in April 2006 that the state had no compelling interest in keeping the bridge intact. Nixon appealed the ruling to the Western District Court of Appeals. Morrison said Nixon’s suit is still moving through the appeals court but also said he did not know when a ruling is expected.
“We’ll continue to support the attorney general’s case and keep up with our friend-of-the-court filings,” he said.
The use agreement was made between the state and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad in 1987. Union Pacific bought the railroad in 1988. Both suits allege that the railroad must leave the bridge in the state’s control because, according to the Rails to Trails Interim Use Agreement, the trail must remain continuous.
The bridge is not currently used by pedestrians and bicyclists, who use a highway bridge nearby instead. The Natural Resources Department and preservationists have differed over the cost of renovating the bridge for pedestrian use. The department estimates $6 million to $12 million plus maintenance costs to renovate the bridge, but Shannon said in 2006 the work could be done for around $1 million.
Morrison said he didn’t know what action his clients would want to take with their case now that the dismissal has been upheld, but he said the important thing for them was to help with Nixon’s lawsuit.
“I think all the action is with the other case,” he said.