Deal could start commuter rail and hiking, bike trails


Jackson County is far from connected by commuter rail and bike and walking trails, but it has started a path.

There is an option to purchase about 21 miles of rail tracks needed for the project, officials announced today.

The free option with Union Pacific Railroad gives the county until the end of the year to come up with $59.9 million.

Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders said they believe the money can be raised by federal funds without any local cost or tax increase.

Banking the rail lines is the first step in creation of the swath of light rail and hiking and biking trails, he said.

Any possible vote on taxes for buying rail cars and starting the system would come later.

“There are still a lot of steps that have to happen but this makes commuter rail possible,” Sanders said.

jackson-county-multimodal-transit-investmentsThe three rail sections covered by the option:

  • The Rock Island line, a 15.5 mile corridor running through Raytown and Lee’s Summit almost to Greenwood, and linking to the Katy trail.
  • The former Independence Power & Light spur, a 1.9 mile section between Lake City and 23rd Street and Truman Road.
  • The Pixley Spur, a 3.5-mile corridor from about Highway 291 to downtown Independence.

Negotiations had been under way with Southern Pacific for an Eastern-Jackson-County-to-River-Market line, but no deal has been struck.

But Sanders said the Union Pacific Pixley Spur line connects to other Union Pacific tracks that also run to the River Market.

He will continue to work toward an agreement with Union Pacific on that section of track, he said, while praising the company for what it has already agreed to do.

“We all owe them,” he said. “Union Pacific wants to put together corridors that work for Kansas City.”

Ben Jones, director of public affairs for Union Pacific, said the railroad “will continue our partnership with them as they work on their transit plan.”

Sanders also stressed that he is working with Kansas City in its streetcar construction and expansion.

The 15.5-mile Rock Island line runs up to Linwood near the sports stadium. Linwood or 31st Street are among the three possible streetcar expansion routes being studied by the city.

John P. McGurk, Mayor Sly James’ chief of staff, said the city council would consider that in deciding where the extensions go.

The county deal also would not give it control of tracks running south along the Highway 71 corridor. That route had been under consideration but a study recommended enhanced bus route there with possible commuter rail later.

The city proposal for extending the downtown streetcar system includes putting a MAX bus line on nearby Prospect Avenue.

Leave a Comment