Historic deal for Missouri trails: Jackson County & KCATA purchase 17.7 mile section of Rock Island Trail

Today another important piece was added to the planned 500-mile cross-state Rock Island/Katy Trail system.

Today Jackson County and the KCATA completed purchase of Rock Island RR
Today Jackson County and the KCATA completed purchase of the westernmost 17.7 mile section of the Rock Island RR corridor
Jackson County, KCATA, and Union Pacific held a ceremony today to complete the purchase and sign the deed that finalizes the County's ownership of the corridor. 

"Today we will purchase the Rock Island Corridor," said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. Former County Executive Mike Sanders, who has worked over the past several years to bring the deal to completion, spoke about the economic benefits of the upcoming trail and transit connections to the adjoining communities.

Robbie Makinen of the KCATA and representatives of Union Pacific also spoke.

This is a historic day for Jackson County and for trails in Missouri--one many people have been working many years to bring to reality.

Work in the county's 17.7 mile portion of the Rock Island Trail will begin immediately and be completed in the next few years. This segment will connect with the 47.6 mile Rock Island Trail state park segment that brings the connection to Windsor, on the Katy Trail--and segment that will be open later in 2016.

With those two segments complete, we will have a complete, seamless trail connection from the Truman Sports Complex in the heart of Kansas City all the way to the terminus of the Katy Trail in the St. Louis metro area.

An additional 144-mile section of the Rock Island Trail will come online in the next few years, ultimately creating a 500-mile seamless statewide Katy/Rock Island Trail system.

Purchase of the 17.7-mile section through suburban and urban communities in the Kansas City area cost approximately $52 million. The county has set aside $12.5 million in federal and matching local funds for construction of the trail over the next few years. The County's web page about the Rock Island corridor outlines the many economic benefits that will come from development of the corridor as a trail and transit route.

Rock Island Corridor History--and how the Rock Island Trail came to be

Trail advocates and government officials from western Missouri have been working to create a trail on this portion of the Rock Island railroad corridor since the late 1970s, when it became clear the rail service on the corridor would soon come to an end. 

The efforts redoubled in the early 1990s, when it became clear that the Rock Island Corridor would be the best way to connect the Kansas City area to the state's new Katy Trail, creating a truly statewide trail connection that would bring together the state's two largest metropolitan areas and many communities in between.

Trails advocacy organizations, including the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, have been working to build public support for the trails during this entire decades-long period. Strong public support has been crucial for making it possible for each piece of the trail to move forward.

(click for full-sized version)
The Rock Island combined with the Katy Trail will make a 457-mile cross-state trail loop (click for full-sized version)

What does the future Rock Island Trail network look like?

What will the entire Katy Trail-Rock Island Trail statewide trail loop look like?  See this zoomable map of the planned trail system.

The Rock Island Trail consists of these segments--each with its own history, owners, potential owners, and progress: 

  • Segment 1: ~24.8 miles - Rock Island, Pleasant Hill to KC. The current Jackson County/KCATA purchase is for 17.7 miles of this segment, leaving a small gap between the Jackson County segment and existing trail in Pleasant Hill.

  • Segment 2: 47.6 miles - Rock Island, Pleasant Hill to Windsor - result of the Taum Sauk settlement with Ameren (State Parks).  This segment was railbanked earlier in 2014 and salvage work/trail construction is currenctly underway. There is another small segment of trail about 0.6 miles, through and near Pleasant Hill.

  • Segment 3: 143.7 miles - Rock Island, Windsor to Beaufort (near Washington) (State Parks).  This is the segment the STB approved railbanking in late 2014. 

  • Segment 4: ~20-40 miles - Work to plan the final connection between the Rock Island at Beaufort, Washington City, and the Katy Trail is underway and under intense discussion by Missouri State Parks, local officials in the Washington area, and Ameren.  They assure us that a good solution will be found.  This segment could add 20-40 miles, more or less, to the total Katy/Rock Island trail loop mileage depending on details.

  • Segments 5+: Connections between the Katy & Rock Island Trails are possible between Warsaw and Sedalia, at Jefferson City, at Hermann, and in other places.  In addition, connections to the ends of the trail system are possible on both ends and at some points in between. We could easily end up with a few dozen more miles of connecting trail.  Stay tuned!

    Representatives of MoBikeFed and MoRIT meet with Ameren to deliver petition signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy played a key role in promoting the trail, helping build nationwide support, and in submitting a competitive bid to purchase the corridor.
    Representatives of MoBikeFed and MoRIT meet with Ameren to deliver petition signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy played a key role in promoting the trail, helping build nationwide support, and in submitting a competitive bid to purchase the corridor.

  • TOTAL Rock Island Trail mileage Kansas City to Beaufort, is 216.7 miles

  • TOTAL Katy Trail milage is 240 miles. By the RR mile markers, the Katy is 237.7 miles, but the trail diverges from the RR corridor in a few place. Missouri State Parks confirms that Total katy Trail mileage is currently 240.

  • TOTAL system mileage will be about 500 miles. Katy Trail plus Rock Island Trail mileage totals about 457 miles. An additional ~20-40 miles of trail will be required for the Beaufort-Dutzow connection near Washington. Additional small sections of trail will be needed for connectivity.  The end result will be a statewide trail loop system of 500 miles or perhaps even a little more.

When the new Rock Island Trail segments are complete, that will rocket Missouri to the forefront of states with long, interconnected trail systems.  With the addition of major planned trail systems in the St Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield, and other areas of the state, the state's trail system starts to look formidable indeed.


Find out more about the trail on our Missouri Rock Island Trail page.


One of the top goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri is building a world-class bicycle and pedestrian transportation system in Missouri.  The addition of the Rock Island Trail to Missouri's statewide trail system is the biggest single advance we have seen in Missouri in over 20 years.

Your membership and generous financial contributions help turn our Vision into reality--building the statewide public support for bicycling, walking, and trails that make major advances like the Rock Island Trail possible.



Photo credits:
Legislature testimony: Jackson County Rail
Others: Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation

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