Our Opinion: Railroad bridge will alleviate bottleneck

News Tribune editorial

“It’s been a long time coming.” -Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

That song lyric could have been voiced during Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a second railroad bridge crossing the Osage River east of Jefferson City.

The existing bridge creates a bottleneck among eastbound and westbound freight and passenger trains along Union Pacific’s rail system in Missouri.

Those delays will be eased when construction of a second bridge in Osage City is completed in about 16 months.

The newest upgrade will join recent improvements to the rail system — including the addition of a rail siding near California, west of Jefferson City.

The bridge project, readers may recall, was embroiled in a controversial proposal to use the steel from the old MKT Railroad bridge over the Missouri River at Boonville, which many supporters of the Katy Trail State Park wanted to keep as part of the hiking and biking trail.

Union Pacific retained ownership of the bridge after the rail line was converted to the Katy Trail, but met with opposition when it announced plans to dismantle the bridge and reuse the steel to build the second bridge in Osage City.

Although then-Gov. Matt Blunt supported the railroad’s plan, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon filed a lawsuit on behalf of the state to halt the reuse.

Lower courts sided with the railroad and, in 2008, the Missouri Supreme Court subsequently declined review.

The controversy essentially became moot in 2010 with the announcement that $22.6 million in federal stimulus money would be dedicated for the $28 million-plus project. Union Pacific is financing the remaining $5.6 million.

Frustrating delays with starting this project are intensified by tardy spending of federal stimulus dollars.

We agree with those members of Congress who contend the use of stimulus money — like the use of a heart defibrillator — is most effective when applied quickly.

Although we are disappointed this stimulus money has remained dormant since 2009, we are delighted it finally is being put to good use.

The bridge project will create jobs, eliminate costly and inconvenient delays, and enhance freight and passenger rail service throughout our state.

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