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Rock Island Corridor Now Belongs To Jackson County

Elle Moxley
KCUR 89.3
Former county executive Mike Sanders speaks at a ceremony to transfer the former Union Pacific Rock Island right-of-way to Jackson County.

Former Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders looks at 17.7 miles of old Union Pacific train tracks and sees the future.

“It has the potential to change the entire way our community works, the entire way our community lives and the entire way we move for generations to come,” Sanders said of the Rock Island Corridor, which Jackson County officially acquired Monday after years of back-and-forth with the railroad.

With the backing of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, Jackson County struck a $52 million deal to buy the corridor from Union Pacific last fall.

It was a major victory for Sanders, who’s long said a comprehensive regional transit strategy has to include the train tracks from Kansas City to Raytown to Lee’s Summit.

But for now, no trains will run on the tracks. The immediate plan is to construct a gravel pedestrian trail. An estimated 56,000 people live within a mile of the right-of-way.

“Soon you will be able to go to a trailhead near Truman Sports Complex and take about 35,000 steps along a trail that will eventually connect to the Katy Trail and the Rock Island State Park Trail,” said Frank White, who took over as county executive after Sanders stepped down earlier this year.

Right now, the Katy Trail extension from Windsor to Pleasant Hill is under construction. Once the Rock Island Corridor opens in spring 2018, that just leaves a seven-mile stretch near Greenwood to complete the Kansas City-St. Louis trail system.

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

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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