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Commuter Rail and Kansas City

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  • Ronald Dawson
    From http://www.trainnews.com/NEWS/KS/010628KSa.htm Dawson Commuter Rail Could Connect Lee s Summit and Blue Springs to Kansas City The Mid-America Regional
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2001
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      From http://www.trainnews.com/NEWS/KS/010628KSa.htm Dawson

      Commuter Rail Could Connect Lee's Summit and Blue Springs to Kansas City

      The Mid-America Regional Council identified three existing freight rail
      lines in the Kansas City area suitable for commuter rail, and two are in
      suburban Jackson County:
      One line would run along Interstate 70 through Independence, Blue Springs,
      Grain Valley, Oak Grove and Odessa.

      The second line would run south to Lee's Summit, either through Raytown on
      the inactive Rock Island rail line or on the Union Pacific Railroad line.

      The Rock Island track would require more money to rebuild. The Union Pacific
      route would have greater conflicts with freight traffic. Either way, after
      Lee's Summit, the line would continue southeast to Pleasant Hill and
      Warrensburg.

      The third suitable line would run along the Kansas River from Union Station
      to Lawrence and Topeka.

      The study suggested that 16 other freight lines not be considered for
      commuter rail because they had too much freight traffic on them or their
      projected ridership was too low.

      A line running along U.S. 71 to Belton was deemed not feasible because its
      estimated ridership was too low.

      A Cass County official said commuter rail, where it is feasible, would be
      worth the wait.

      "I think that the sooner it can be done the better, but you want to have it
      done at the right time," said Mark Randall, Pleasant Hill city
      administrator. "This is the perfect time to be studying it. We need to study
      it now so we'll have it when we need it."

      Though commuter rail would not solve all transportation problems, it would
      add another transportation option for commuters, said Randall, a member of
      the MARC committee preparing the proposal.

      The study assumed that service on the three suitable rail lines would
      include three trains a day each way and a potential average daily ridership
      of at least 3,000 boardings per line.

      The line through Lee's Summit to Warrensburg could have 3,800 boardings, and
      the line to Odessa could have 4,160 by 2020, according to the report
      compiled for MARC by R.L. Banks and Associates of Washington D.C. Ridership
      was estimated based on population and the percentages of people who use
      commuter rail where it is now available.

      The Odessa line through eastern Jackson County would cost $117 million to
      build and $3.6 million annually to operate. The Warrensburg/Lee's Summit
      line would cost roughly $90 million to build and $5.9 million annually.

      Consultants are completing a still more detailed assessment of the three
      potential lines and may submit recomendations by the end of the year. If
      they decide the lines are feasible, the consultants then will draw up plans
      for implementing them, said Mell Henderson, MARC's transportation director.

      Easing heavy highway traffic is the main reason MARC suggested commuter rail
      for Kansas City, but increased environmental efficiency is another benefit,
      Henderson said.

      "There's a whole range of things we're hoping to address by these
      investments," he said.

      "Our current I-70 is one of the most congested corridors in the region.
      There is so much travel demand in that corridor, but this certainly would
      give people a choice of how they would travel."

      Other city officials said they supported the concept of commuter rail
      because it would encourage Kansas Citians to work in the suburbs.

      "There's a fair number of people who don't live in Oak Grove who commute to
      Oak Grove for work," said Russell Pratt, Oak Grove's finance director.
      "Anything that makes it easier for people to get here, I think, would spur
      employment opportunities."

      Fran Owens, Blue Springs economic development director, said alleviating the
      "parking lots" on I-70 and Interstate 35 during rush hours would be worth
      any inconveniences during commuter rail construction.

      Past transportation plans have ignored eastern Jackson County, Owens added.

      "I think that previous efforts have been shortsighted," Owens said.
      "Primarily all you hear about is north of the (Missouri) river and Johnson
      County. But we just happen to have half a million people living out here who
      I think would benefit, too."

      Bruce Hahl, development director for Independence, said commuter rail was
      better than buses because it ran separately from car traffic.

      "The reason is simple: You just can't build enough roads to accommodate the
      traffic," Hahl said.

      Plans for yet another Johnson County line - a commuter line along Interstate
      35 - are moving forward in Johnson County, although recently the project has
      run into possible cost problems.
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