Katy Trail Connection to Kansas City now to be built on RR bed rather than alongside

The Katy Trail Connection to Kansas City is moving forward in a slightly different--but better--direction, according to this Kansas City Star article:

State Parks Director Bill Bryan said a 3.2-mile section of the trail at Pleasant Hill is complete and paperwork has been submitted to the FSTB, which must approve projects that take railroad corridors out of service.

“We expect a ruling soon, and in our favor,” Bryan said. “The whole process has taken about a year.”

Bryan said the paperwork covers the completed section of the trail. When approval is received for that section, paperwork will be submitted to cover the remainder of the project, he said.

No further construction will take place until approval is received for the whole trail, he said.

“I think, when we go through it again, it will be easier,” he said. “The agreements and paperwork we completed for the first section are essentially the same. I think it will go much more quickly.

”We hope to be totally done (with the FSTB process) by this time next year.“ . . 

The trail will be constructed in the rail bed rather than alongside as proposed originally, Bryan said.

That eliminates private property issues, he said, since the easement already exists.

The change also eliminates the need to add bridges and culverts, which will make the project more environmentally friendly as it cut costs in half, Bryan said.

Members and supporters of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation have led the charge to publicize the vision of the Katy Trail system as a trail network that stretches from state line to state line--from the Arch in St. Louis to Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.

In 2006, over 4000 of our members and supporters signed a petition requesting that Governor Blunt and (then) Attorney General Nixon include the Katy Trail Connection as part of the AmerenUE/Taum Sauk settlement.  Since AmerenUE owns the Rock Island Railroad line, which connects the Katy Trail to the Kansas City metro area, this settlement created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to allow the world-renowned Katy Trail--still the longest continous rails-to-trails project in the U.S.--to be connected with the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The result was a negotiated settlement with AmerenUE which gave Missouri State Parks a trail easement to build a trail alongside the Rock Island railroad line, along with $18 million in cash to build the trail, which will connect Windsor on the Katy Trail with Pleasant Hill on the outskirts of the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Now the state has negotiated with AmerenUE to allow the trail to be built atop the railroad bed, which will allow a better trail to be built at lower cost.

The delays we are now seeing are the result of these negotiations and the fact that the final agreement--like all agreements involving the national rail system--must be approved by the Federal Surface Transportation Board (FSTB).

As the article mentions, 3.2 miles of the connection to the southeast of Pleasant Hill is essentially complete but not officially open until the legal process is wrapped up.

Another 1.5 miles miles of the Katy Trail connection is officially open--the MoPAC Trail leading 1.5 miles northwest of Pleasant Hill.  The city of Pleasant Hill is currently working to create a bicycle route/trail through the city to connect these two trail segments.

Rock Island Corridor Coalition
Rock Island Corridor Coalition
Meanwhile, a consortium of cities, counties, and other agencies known as the Kansas City Area Rock Island Corridor Coalition is working with Union Pacific, which owns the last twelve miles of the Rock Island Railroad from Pleasant Hill to the Kansas City sports complex, to purchase that line, with plans to use it as a commuter rail corridor with a trail alongside--as so-called "rails with trails" project.

On the eastern side of the Katy Trail, 12 miles has recently been added, connecting the Katy Trail to Machens--very close to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Meanwhile, Great Rivers Greenway District has been working diligently to connect the Katy Trail in St. Charles with the rest of the St. Louis metro area.

Slowly but surely, and thanks to support from thousands of members and supporters like you, our vision of a Katy Trail system stretching from state line to state line is becoming a reality!