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Our Opinion: Adrian's Island tunnel plan sidetracked

You may want to postpone packing the basket for a picnic on Adrian’s Island.

Developments reported this week will delay plans to build an access tunnel to Jefferson City’s proposed riverfront park on the south bank of the Missouri River.

Creating access from the city’s core area to the riverfront long has been a dream of some city leaders and residents. Admittedly, others consider the idea a wasteful nightmare.

An obstacle to access is Union Pacific Railroad’s main lines and switching yard in the core area.

Jefferson City Council members believed they had overcome the access obstacle when they voted 9-1 to design a tunnel to provide access for pedestrians and bicyclists. The vote occurred more than a year ago, on Feb. 2, 2010, with completion targeted for sometime this summer.

Tunneling under railroad tracks, however, creates engineering and safety concerns, and Union Pacific is not ready to approve the proposal.

“Any time you go under the track structure,” railroad spokesman Mike Davis said this week, “you have to ensure from a geological standpoint that the new structure — in this case, a pedestrian tunnel — along with the track structure, remains intact.”

Davis also cited safety concerns and the need to keep tunnel users from accessing the tracks.

A day later, Gov. Jay Nixon announced Missouri will seek nearly $1 billion in high-speed rail service funding from the federal government. The grant money became available after the state of Florida turned it down.

In addition to about $600 million for a separate rail line dedicated to high-speed rail service between St. Louis and Kansas, Missouri’s application seeks $373 million for updates to existing lines.

In Jefferson City, a third main line and a new station are listed among the requested improvements.

This new wrinkle obviously will slow — further — any decision on the tunnel.

Until the federal government rules on financing another main rail line, the city’s tunnel plans will remain relegated to a siding.

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