Work is set to begin soon on the Katy Trail Overpass near Smith-Cotton Junior High School. They’re going to restore, rebuild, raise and widen it so there’s a little more clearance for some of the taller vehicles that happen to be traveling through Sedalia. Plus they’re going to reconstruct it in a way that makes it more difficult for hooligans to look over the edge and throw things at the cars passing beneath the bridge. They’re not tearing it down for good and bifurcating the Katy Trail, but they are going to modernize it.
“The structure is old, in disrepair, and determined to be structurally unsafe,” said Ward 4 Councilwoman Vicky Collins. “The new Katy Trail overpass will be wider and taller, allowing for the size of trucks that pass through as well as provide a safe walking pass across the highway.”
So far the responses are mixed: the people seem to understand that replacement of the aging overpass is necessary, but at the same time many are sad to see it go. Maybe they have fond memories of sunset strolls above one of Sedalia’s busiest roads or maybe they remember that time they skipped school and stood on the overpass for a while deciding what to do next.
“Bridges cannot last forever and this particular one I have a love-hate relationship with,” Lindy Thomas said. “I love all of its history but seriously dislike driving underneath it.”
Sedalia is a community that prides itself in its history and there’s a general feeling that even in the face of progress that we should do what we can to save what can be saved. Unfortunately, it seems the existing Katy Trail Overpass is too far gone and too much of a disruption to highway traffic to be saved.
We don’t want people who drive trucks, trailers and buses to continue bypassing the State Fair City just because of a low bridge, do we? Or worse yet, coming through anyway and hitting the overpass and having vehicle damage be the first thing they think of when they think of Sedalia.
“Yes, it is a part of Sedalia history, but with progress comes change,” Collins said. “Sedalia is growing, which means more traffic and large semis. The old overpass has been hit numerous times, further diminishing the structure.”
I was actually a little surprised when I saw so many people mourning the loss of the old overpass. Sedalia is full of historic sights that are or soon will be no more like the Wheel-Inn, the covered bridge, Eddie’s, and Sedalia Drive-In, just to name a few. But these destinations were reasonably distinct, aesthetically pleasing icons that will live on in our memories and pictures.
So call me ignorant, but the Katy Trail Overpass kind of just looks like an overpass to me. There are thousands that are almost just like it throughout the country. The only time it is visually distinct is when someone has come along and hit it with some interesting graffiti. The height signs are the only thing that catch the eye even a little bit. We should probably make sure we put those signs to good use by displaying them somewhere or auctioning them off when they come down.
Sure, it’s interesting because there aren’t a whole lot of overpasses that also happen to be part of a state park. But even when the restoration is done that’s still going to be the case. And it’s still going to be that place where you had those fond memories, but now it’s going to be safer for everyone.
“I also grew up as an east side girl and walked these stairs many times to and from school,” Cathy Slocum Kreisel said. “I hate to see it go. Just wish there was a way to fix it so it at least resembles the way it looks today.”
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.