Pizza Ranch is coming to Independence, opening sometime after the first of the year.

It will be on Bass Pro Drive, northwest of Cheddar’s. Construction is under way, and General Manager Ron Best said it could be February before it opens.

The company, based in Orange City, Iowa, has more than 170 locations in 11 states. This will be its third in the metro area. Its buffets include pizza, fried chicken and all the sides, salad and dessert.

Shop local

Looking for an alternative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Saturday is Small Business Saturday. The pitch it simple: Make an effort to spend some of that holiday money with small, locally owned businesses. Advocates say the money spent locally turns over several times, to the benefit of the community. And the lines tend to be short and parking easier to find.

Chugging along

Another critical piece needed for high-speed rail service in Missouri is in place. If that comes to pass, it would presumably include service in Independence and Lee’s Summit.

This week officials dedicated a second Union Pacific bridge over the Osage River just east of Jefferson City. The UP line from Jefferson City east to St. Louis has two sets of tracks, except, up to now, a single-line bridge over the Osage. That bottleneck is now gone.

Those are the tracks Amtrak uses from Kansas City to St. Louis, with stops in Independence and Lee’s Summit, but it’s mostly single tracks from Jefferson City to Independence, though MoDOT is looking at plans for more double tracks south of Lee’s Summit.

I asked David Nichols, director of the Missouri Department of Transportation, about that the other day. Wouldn’t you need double tracks all the way across the state to make high-speed rail feasible? For sure, he said. Who pays for that? It’s a good opportunity for a public-private partnership, is as far as he would go.

Nichols was in town to discuss MoDOT’s long-range plans, but its 20-year to-do list – basically everyone’s idea for every plausible project everywhere – is at $71 billion, but MoDOT figures to only have $17 billion to address all that. Rail is one of many competing priorities.

Still, officials dedicating the new bridge – 1,200 feet long, $2 billion – said this is part of long-range plans to connect the 40 largest Midwestern cities with high-speed rail. Fair enough, but forget those French or Japanese bullet trains. We’re talking about getting Amtrak up to 110 mph, cutting a cross-state trip from five and half hours to three and a half.

Illinois is doing this, with some high-speed sections already on the run from Chicago to St. Louis. That route is a companion to the Missouri River, but so far there’s not much talk, let alone a firm plan, for high-speed rail in the Show Me State.

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s business editor and reporter. Reach him at