MKT Trail bridges to close Nov. 27 for repair

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COLUMBIA - Residents, trail runners, walkers and bikers stood in the heat Thursday evening to learn detours they can take when the partial trail closure starts November 27.

The City of Columbia Parks and Recreation department held an open-house style meeting outside at Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the Battle Garden trail head entrance.

"There will be a trail section of the MKT that is completely closed to any type of traffic because of construction vehicles that will come through," said Janet Godon, City of Columbia Parks and Recreation department planner.

The project is supposed to be completed April 2018, weather permitting. "Replacing three bridges, including demolition, putting back the concrete footings and then setting the bridges will definitely take time, so it's a tight timeline," Godon said.

The new bridges will be made out of steel instead of wood that is currently used for the 120-year-old bridges.

Godon said some trees will be cut down in order to make room for the new bridges.

Currently, ambulance and maintenance vehicles use smaller ATV's or small trucks to get onto the bridge when needed because the bridges cannot sustain the weight of an emergency vehicle or truck.

"For the most part the trail is extremely safe, but you never know when somebody would need an ambulance and that ambulance has got to be able to go over the bridges," said Lucy Urlacher, a Columbia resident. "Or the folks from the city that maintain it have got to be able to get their trucks through, so if they say they need it, I trust them."

The Parks and Recreation Department said it has $380,000 budgeted for the project. $150,000 is "coming from recreational trail program grant money and additional from the park sales tax," Godon said.

"It's a little bit of a pain, but this is the 3rd detour I've lived through and you just know it's all for the better, and I'm just thrilled they maintain it," Urlacher said.

Urlacher said she has commuted on the trail 6 miles each way for 9 years and rides it often.

"Everyday, well, Monday through Friday and sometimes on the weekend, but everyday and all year-round, unless it's colder than 15 degrees, or raining."

Urlacher said her commute will probably be about 15 minutes longer each way because of the detour she will have to take. 

The Parks and Recreation website provides detour routes here.