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Federal Goverment Pledges $10 Million Toward Jackson County Rail Project

Commuter rail to Kansas City from the eastern suburbs is one step closer to reality after Jackson County secured $10 million dollars in federal highway dollars for the purchase of old train tracks known as the Rock Island Corridor.

"I mean, that’s roughly 16 percent of the purchase price," says Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders. "That’s significant for the federal government to provide that for acquisition, which is fairly rare."

The county needs $59 million in total to buy the line from Union Pacific. It would form what Sanders calls the "spine" of the county's regional transit plan.

"This is an absolutely critical domino to fall before you can really begin to talk about commuter rail traffic in the greater Kansas City area," says Sanders. "It allows us to do this for just percents of what you could do this for anywhere else in the United States."

Sanders says the ultimate goal is to put the tracks, which stretch from Pleasant Hill to northeast Kansas City, back into service, with connections to Clay, Wyandotte and Johnson counties on either side of the state line.

The county has until next fall to fund the balance of the project — money Sanders thinks local municipalities that would benefit from the line can find without increasing taxes.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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