Grant a “game changer” for Jackson County commuter rail effort

IMGA $10 million federal grant puts Jackson County farther toward a regional commuter rail, bike and trail system.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders announced the grant today.

The county, along with regional partners such as Kansas City, Independence and Raytown now have until September of next year to raise about $49 million more to get Union Pacific rail right-of-ways, he said.

The county and Union Pacific agreed previously on the terms to buy access to about 24 miles of rail intended to be the spine of regional commuter rail. 

“This $10 million was a game changer for us,” Sanders said today, because it moves financing forward.

With help from cities and other partners, he said, he hopes to raise the rest of the money. Even then, actual commuter rail would be years away but a system of trails could take shape for quicker use.

The $59 million would get access to the rail line that runs from near the sports stadiums almost to Greenwood and access to two more lines in Independence.

The next step would be to negotiate a deal with Union Pacific to get access to prime commercial lines that run to the River Market area, Sanders said.

It is possible to run commuter rail alongside the commercial lines or take other steps, Sanders said.

At one time, the county hoped to use lines owned by Kansas City Southern to connect downtown but that fell apart when officials with that railroad insisted the commuter lines run to Union Station, Sanders said.

All talks with Kansas City Southern ended, he said, after a study found that it would cost $1.6 billion to connect to Union Station versus $758 million to go downtown at 3rd and Grand.

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