Jackson County plans to resume construction of the Rock Island trail, following a new agreement with the Union Pacific and an OK from the federal government.
“It allows our construction to move forward in earnest,” Matt Davis, Rock Island program manager for Jackson County Parks + Rec, told legislators this week.
Legislators on Monday approved a new rail banking agreement with the Union Pacific, meaning the corridor can be used for a hiking and biking trail but – like other rails-to-trails projects around the country – could some day be put back to rail use if the need arises.
The county plans a 17.7-mile trail, on old Rock Island tracks, from near Arrowhead Stadium south and west through Raytown and into the Longview Lake area. The county also would like to add a few miles of trail to create a connection with the Katy Trail, which runs all the way to the St. Louis area.
The southern 6.4-mile portion of the 17.7 mile trail is open, but the county’s construction of the section leading to Arrowhead was stopped two months ago following a ruling by the federal Surface Transportation Board. Some landowners along the trail have opposed the county’s plan and have taken their case to that board.
The county bought the Rock Island corridor from the Union Pacific in 2016, and now with a new railbanking agreement with the UP says the STB is letting it move forward on Feb. 20.
“We had to get their (the STB) blessing, essentially, to continue in the same kind of way that we had prior to do this,” Davis said. “They kind of said, ‘You’re doing it wrong. Let’s go back, and follow the correct path to rail-banking.’ We did that. We followed those steps. And they have confirmed that we’ve done it correctly,”