Report expected soon on commuter rail viability at Union Station

A plan for commuter rail in Jackson County got derailed when a train company decided the Downtown connection had to be at Union Station, but a study will soon determine if that is even physically possible.

The “train trench” study is expected out in four-to-six weeks, the Mid-America Regional Council reported Friday. It is to determine if commuter rail cars could fit in the Union Station tracks that handle freight trains and Amtrak service.

Jackson County planned to place the end of the line at the River Market but county officials said that fell apart in March, when Kansas City Southern, whose tracks are involved, said it had to be at Union Station.

Several railroad companies share those tracks and they are against taking the commuter rail into the station, Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said then.

Also, legal and engineering hurdles for Union Station would be high and add millions in cost to the project, he said.

But he also added, “There is a chance the issues can be resolved.”

Tom Gerend, MARC assistant director of transportation, said planning is still going on for a possible 71 Highway corridor commuter route from Downtown to Grandview but is now concentrating on improved bus service there.

Planning is farther along for two other commuter rail routes, one going east to Blue Springs and another largely along 350 Highway to Pleasant Hill.

If Union Station is not physically possible, it eliminates that option as the Downtown connection.

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