Cross-state Katy Trail: Jackson County moving forward on one of the last pieces

Our vision of connecting the Katy Trail from Liberty Memorial to the St. Louis Arch is taking another step towards reality.

Jackson County, the Mid-America Regional Council, and four interested cities are currently working on purchasing the old Rock Island Railroad corridor from Pleasant Hill to Kansas City, Missouri.

Rock Island Rails-with-Trail visualization
Rock Island Rails-with-Trail visualization

If they are able to complete the deal, the Katy Trail will have a continuous connection from Windsor to Pleasant Hill (about 46 miles, the first five miles currently under construction by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources) through Lee's Summit and Raytown to Kansas City, Missouri, near the Sports Complex.

The municalities are negotiating with Union Pacific Railroad, which owns the line.  Union Pacific is willing--even eager--to sell at least a large portion of the right of way.

The right of way could serve as a trail connection and carry a commuter rail line as well as utility easements if the proposal goes forward.

The Lee's Summit Journal reports:

“Right now the Rock Island Railroad line is contiguous and uninterrupted,” said County Executive Mike Sanders. “But it won’t remain that way forever.”Right now the coalition has commission several studies on possible uses of the corridor to determine the best possible uses. Federal dollars are paying for the studies, one of which is an Alternatives Analysis study. An open house to gather community feedback for the Alternatives Analysis study is set for 4 to 6:30 p.m., Sept. 27, at the Robert J. Mohart Multipurpose FOCUS Center, 3200 Wayne Ave., Kansas City. Arbo said the studies are necessary in order to gain possible federal funding for the project. . . . 


“It’s not predetermined to be a commuter rail,” Arbo said of the corridor’s use.

In fact, one of the biggest uses the coalition has been discussing is a regional trail system that would ultimately connect with the KATY Trail.

Sanders said the line could also be used to rent to utility companies looking to lay lines.

But none of those plans are mutually exclusive. In fact, ideally they could work in conjunction with a future rail system, much like a system recently completed in Denton, Texas, a suburb of the Dallas, Fort Worth area. It took years to come to fruition, but the Texas system includes commuter rail and a trail route.


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