Friday morning was the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the official first crossing of the new pedestrian lane on the Missouri River Bridge!
I told you about the groundbreaking ceremony for this project last May. Click here for some scary "before" photos!
The new section is attached by enormous brackets to the eastern edge of the northbound bridge.
This nice, wide path is a huge improvement on how it used to be, when walkers and bicyclists had only a few feet of thin air between themselves and the 50,000 cars and trucks that blast over the river each day.
Not to mention that bicyclists attempting to ride south to reach Jeff City were forced to ride on the left, against traffic, which is kind of suicidal, plus it's ingrained into us all as illegal. Most Katy Trail bicyclists, I suspect, simply opted to stop at Hartsburg instead, with an attitude about Jeff having "nothing worth risking your life to see."
To access the bridge from the south (Jefferson City), park near the intersection of West Main and Clay streets—that’s where the pathway begins, behind bright yellow posts.
Round the curve, and soon you'll be on the bridge.
There is a special section with higher fences over the train tracks; I think it's to prevent the slower among us from throwing objects down on the rails.
The path gives you excellent views of Jefferson City and the state capitol. There are two places over the river where the path widens, where you can pause to enjoy the view.
You can take great photographs from the bridge!
Then, once you’re over the river, a big ramp, shaped like a square spiral, leads you down comfortable grades to the river bottom, near the Noren River Access. From there, a short ride leads to the “North Jefferson City” access point of Katy Trail State Park.
The Katy Trail, I should mention, is the longest rails-to-trails pathway in the United States; at the present, it extends from St. Charles in the east to the city of Clinton in the west; much of it includes incredibly scenic stretches through Missouri’s wine country and between tall limestone cliffs on one side and the beautiful Missouri River on the other.
Although initially it was controversial, especially among landowners who believed the trail would deliver riffraff and trash onto their rural properties, the Katy Trail has proved enormously helpful to many small communities that had seen nothing but “bust” since the decline of the railroads. Now, the Katy Trail brings cyclists (such as me), hikers, big-city residents with disposable income, and family day-trippers to these small towns, and they’re interested in dining, shopping, spending the night at B&Bs, and getting a taste of the “local color.”
Towns such as Boonville, Rocheport, Hartsburg, Hermann, and Sedalia are called “Katy Trail Towns,” and now that Jeff City is officially connected, it becomes a Katy Trail Town, too!
I can’t wait until my ankle’s all better, so I can start riding my bike across! (That ramp looks like a lot of fun!)
One more thing: Although the local and state officials who spoke at the ceremony had lots of thanking to do--and I won't repeat it here, for there were many individuals and businesses who donated to this project (look for their names on pavers and a plaque at the south end of the bridge)--I want to express my appreciation, respect, and admiration for the workers who risked life and limb while constructing the pedestrian bridge. Here are some of them.
Folks, they were out there on the edge of the bridge in the freezing cold, with cars whooshing right past them at ninety miles per hour (in a sixty mph zone), and working high over the river; there were dozens of ways to die out there. And it was a record-snowfall winter, yet they finished on time and on budget. Great work, fellows! I will think of you each time I use the bridge!
Thanks, Sue, for taking such awesome pictures!