Washington Times covers Katy Trail connection to Kansas City

According to a Washington Times article:

Outdoor enthusiasts have long sought a 75-mile trail extension into Kansas City along an unused rail bed owned by two utilities. Now, with Gov. Matt Blunt calling on AmerenUE Corp. to consider giving up its rights to the dormant Rock Island corridor to compensate for unrelated damage from a hydroelectric plant spill, they hope the project becomes a reality.

"It makes a lot of sense to connect the two major metropolitan areas of the state to the trail," said Brent Hugh, president of the Missouri Bike Federation. . . .

Kansas City-area cyclists in particular voiced strong support for extending the trail. Most now have to drive more than one hour to begin their trail rides in Clinton, Windsor, Boonville or Columbia.

Mr. Blunt issued a public statement in April in support of the extension, four months after a breach of the AmerenUE Taum Sauk plant in southeast Missouri flooded Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park with 1.3 billion gallons of water.

Although Ameren is paying to clean up the flooded park, the governor suggested that the utility, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ameren Corp., donate the Rock Island rail bed as well as land it owns adjacent to the damaged state park.

The utility has not responded to that request, but the Republican governor's interest in such a deal hasn't wavered, a Blunt spokesman said. . . .

An Ameren spokesman declined to discuss any potential settlement with the state, as did a spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon. A Union Pacific spokesman in Omaha, Neb., suggested that the company is not eager to hand over its investment.

Union Pacific's Jim Barnes said the company recognizes the recreational value of extending the trail and is evaluating the proposal.

However, he said, "We are in a position of having to ensure our rights of way are being used to maximize our ability to handle the explosive growth and demand for rail service."