On February 27, Missouri’s Rock Island Trail took a major step forward — perhaps the biggest and most important step in this lengthy, complex process. The Surface Transportation Board approved the proposal by Ameren to transfer the rail line to Missouri State Parks to become a trail.
“As a Rock Island neighbor myself, I can tell you that this trail is going to be a major step forward for communities along the Rock Island line,” said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. “The rail line has been nothing but trouble for the communities it runs through since rail traffic stopped more than 30 years ago. Now that sore spot will become an important amenity for communities that everyone can enjoy.”
The STB’s Thursday decision is a major milestone in the decades-long work to convert the long-disused, 217-mile long rail corridor into a statewide trail that will benefit all communities along the route.
The decision is to allow 145 miles of the line, from Windsor to Beaufort, to be removed from rail use, “railbanked,” and transferred to Missouri State Parks for use as the Rock Island Trail. State Parks and Ameren now have 90 days to complete a trail use agreement and forward it to the STB for approval.
“We are very pleased that Ameren, Missouri State Parks, and communities along the Rock Island line have been able to work together to come to this point,” said Hugh. “The Rock Island Trail has the potential to be a major tourist attraction for the region.”
What does the future Rock Island Trail network look like?
- 143.7 miles – Windsor to Beaufort, near Washington. This is the segment the STB approved railbanking.
- 47.6 miles – Pleasant Hill to Windsor. This segment was railbanked earlier this year and salvage work/trail construction is currently under way. There is another small segment of trail about 0.6 miles, through and near Pleasant Hill.
- 24.8 miles – Pleasant Hill to Kansas City. Currently in negotiations for purchase from Union Pacific. Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders announced a preliminary deal to purchase this segment earlier this year and he recently announced that work is progressing to finalize the deal.
- 216.7 miles – Total Rock Island Trail mileage from Kansas City to Beaufort.
As a point of comparison, the Katy Trail is now 240 miles per the Missouri DNR, so total Katy/Rock Island system will be 457 miles
More details, maps, and a copy of the letter from Ameren is found here: