The next step forward is a step toward Eastern Jackson County.

The next step forward is a step toward Eastern Jackson County.

The board of the Mid-America Regional Council on Tuesday voted to seek $2 million in federal planning money for Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders’ $1 billion plan for a commuter rail system for the metro area.

Sanders envisions six lines – employing unused or underused track already in place – that meet at Union Station. One line runs to a spot just south of Arrowhead Stadium and then, on Kansas City Southern track, to Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Oak Grove. A second branches off at the Arrowhead site and runs south to Raytown and Lee’s Summit.

Those two are the focus of grant money. According to MARC, those corridors are more ready-to-go than the others, which would run to Grandview, Kansas Speedway, Kansas City International Airport, and Liberty and Kearney.

Officials hope to hear back on the grant by late summer or early fall.

Sanders unveiled the plan last fall and said recently he figures he’s made presentations to about 6,000 people, mostly business and political leaders. “All the feedback we get is positive,” he said recently.

As officials have described it, a commuter could go from Oak Grove to downtown in about 40 minutes, with stops in downtown Grain Valley, the old Kmart in Blue Springs, near Centerpoint Medical Center, near the old Perkins on Noland Road in Independence, Crysler Stadium and the Wal-Mart on U.S. 40.

Sanders acknowleges it will be hard for Kansas City to jump in line ahead of other cities, as Kansas City is fairly late getting into the game and competing for a slice of a one-time surge of $30 billion to $50 billion in federal money for light rail and commuter rail. On the other hand, he argues, his plan’s use of existing track dramatically lowers the cost compared with systems in other cities built from the ground up.

“We’re going to do this for substantially less than any other city has done,” Sanders said recently.