Jackson County officials said Monday that work has resumed on the Rock Island Trail after a federal ruling had stopped construction last week.
Caleb Clifford, chief of staff for County Executive Frank White Jr., said the county, the federal government and those who have sued to stop the project want the same thing, which is to have the old train line reserved as a “rail bank” even as it’s developed as a hiking and biking trail.
“They just want to make sure that we are truly committed” to railbanking the trail, Clifford said.
Many old trail corridors converted to bike trails are officially held in rail banks, that is, developed in such a way that should the need ever arise, they could be converted back to railroad use.
The first section of the Rock Island Trail – 6.4 miles in Lee’s Summit and Kansas City – opened in June. The second section – another 7.1 miles from Brickyard Road in Kansas City up through Raytown and then the Truman Sports Complex – is under construction.
After buying the old rail line for more than $50 million several years ago, the county in 2016 got an exemption from the federal Surface Transportation Board to proceed with the trail. But last week the board revoked that exemption.
The county said Monday it’s consulted with attorneys and experts and is moving ahead, though a news release from the county executive’s office said that now “no rail, ties or other track materials will be removed from the rail bed.”
County legislators suggested Monday that they are likely to discuss the issue in closed session next week. Missouri law allows closed sessions of public bodies to discuss, among other things, the sale of property and pending litigation.
County officials have said the trail one day would likely be connected to the popular Katy Trail, which runs generally east and west across much of the middle of the state. That would create a Kansas City-to-St. Louis connection.