Cross-state Rock Island Trail: "One of the great victories of the rail-trail movement over the past decade"

News outlets around Missouri have been covering the recent announcement by Ameren that they are moving to railbank 145 miles of the Rock Island Railroad corridor, creating a 210+ mile trail across Missouri, and interconnecting with the Katy Trail to create a 253 mile interconnected cross-state trail loop system across the state.

Potential 213 mile cross-state Rock Island Trail
Potential 213 mile cross-state Rock Island Trail

Media outlets across Missouri have been covereing developments--here are a few of the highlights.

Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star wrote:

A 144-mile section of the former Rock Island rail corridor across Missouri is now more likely to become a hiking and biking trail thanks to its owner’s decision to abandon the unused rail line.

State and national trail advocates called the move by St. Louis-based utility Ameren Missouri a major milestone.

“This represents one of the great victories of the rail-trail movement over the past decade,” Keith Laughlin, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Rails to Trails Conservancy, wrote in a blog post.

The Gasconade County Republican has details from Ameren--it's official statement on progress on the western portion of the line (underway since Ameren and the State of Missouri reached agreement in 2007) as well as the new, eastern 145-mile segment:

Ameren Missouri recognizes the high level of interest in this project. In fact, we recently completed work with Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on a five-mile, rail-to-trail conversion in western Missouri. We are also currently working with DNR on a 40-plus mile conversion, which should be ready for conveyance to the DNR before end of the year. Ameren Missouri recently filed letters for proposed abandonment of 144 miles of existing rail bed with the appropriate government agencies. This is part of an ongoing process that we are working through related to this project. Given the confidential nature of the bids, we are unable to make any further comments at this time.

The Gasconade County Republican wrote: 

Finally, the much anticipated announcement that Ameren UE plans to abandon 144.3 miles of the Rock Island line between Beaufort and Windsor was announced in a press release by Ameren Oct. 2.

 Missouri Rock Island Trail (MORIT), a local rails-to-trails coalition, and their partners have been working to acquire the line since 2010.

The letter was released by Thompson and Hine LLP, the attorney for the Missouri Central Railroad Company (MCRR), an Ameren subsidiary. It detailed Ameren’s plans to file a Notice of Exempt Abandonment with the Surface of Transportation Board within the next few months. The utility has requested an environmental and historical review of areas along the line in 10 counties where the line will be removed and salvaged by Ameren. Counties include Cass, Pettis, Benton, Morgan, Miller, Cole, Osage, Maries, Gasconade and Franklin. 

Presenting over 11,000 signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail to Ameren
Presenting over 11,000 signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail to Ameren

The Columbia Missourian reported:

This summer, a coalition of bicycle enthusiasts led by the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy issued a bid to salvage the line and turn the corridor over to Missouri State Parks after it learned that Ameren had issued a call for bids to sell the rail line.

The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, along with Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc. and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, gathered more than 11,000 signatures on a petition to Ameren urging the utility to create a bike path.

Many small towns along the Rock Island Corridor suffered economically after the decline of the rail line. Local community leaders have pressed for a bike path to inject economic activity into a relatively deprived region of the state.

A 2012 Economic Impact Report about the Katy Trail said that the 240-mile bike path generates more than $18 million a year in tourism-related revenue a year for the state.


Find out more about the Rock Island Trail here.

Rock Island RR Corridor - click for full-sized version

One of the top goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri is creating a world-class bicycle and pedestrian transportation network in Missouri.  Working for statewide trail connections like the Rock Island Trail and Katy Trail are important pieces of that work, as is our work to create better on-road connections across Missouri, like the TransAmerica Trail/US Bicycle Route 76.

Your membership and generous financial support of MoBikeFed helps make our Vision become reality!