© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Jackson County, KCATA Reach Agreement To Buy Rock Island Corridor From Union Pacific

Elle Moxley
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders announces a partnership with KCATA to buy the old Rock Island line from Union Pacific and turn it into a bike trail.

Jackson County is one step closer to the regional transit system that’s long been the vision of County Executive Mike Sanders.

Sanders announced Wednesday the county and the Kansas City Area Transit Authority had reached an agreement to buy the Rock Island Corridor, 17.7 miles of train tracks that stretch from the Truman Sports Complex through Kansas City, Raytown and Lee’s Summit.

“If you’re planning for what you have today, by definition, you’re falling behind the curve,” Sanders said. “Today, Jackson County and this community will not fall behind the curve.”

The county will issue the $52 million in bonds to buy the tracks from Union Pacific, and KCATA will pay half of the annual debt service on the bonds, to the tune of $1.4 million annually.

Sanders says only existing revenues will be used to acquire the corridor. In addition, the Missouri General Assembly set aside money for the project, and last year Jackson County got a $10 million federal grant to help purchase the Rock Island line.

The announcement took place outside Arrowhead Stadium as competitors set up for this weekend’s American Royal World Series of Barbecue. Sanders and KCATA’s Joe Reardon told the crowd to imagine a future where you could be home after a game or event before all the cars left the parking lot.

“Perhaps there’s no better way to show how this corridor can connect people to all this region has to offer than the fact this corridor is situated adjacent to this complex,” said Reardon.

For now, the lines won’t be used for commuter rail. It’ll be retooled as a pedestrian and bike path through Eastern Jackson County. The plan would be to ultimately link the Rock Island Corridor with a planned extension of the Katy Trail to Pleasant Hill.

“Imagine being able to link with the Katy Trail not more than 50 yards from where we stand today to get on your bike - or hike, should you decide to do that - find your way to this location over 240 miles to the downtown arch in one of the longest continuous east-west trail systems in the United States,” Sanders said.

An estimated 19,000 bicyclists will use the corridor, and approximately 40 percent of trail users are expected to be daily work commuters.

“We know that multi-modal transportation can breathe new life into a community,” said Kansas City Mayor Sly James. “We’ve seen that.”

Mayors Eileen Weir of Independence, Michael McDonough of Raytown and Randy Rhoads of Lee’s Summit were also present for the announcement.

“The issues that we have in terms of growth as an entire metropolitan area, those issues need to be dealt with as a region,” Sanders said.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.