Sanders set to unveil commuter rail plan

Regional Commuter Rail Map
The Independence Examiner reports today that Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders is planning to unveil a regional commuter rail system that covers three counties on the Missouri side of the metro — Jackson, Clay, and Platte.

Sanders has been quietly showing these plans to local leaders – mayors, economic development officials, railroads – for some time. He said the 2,000 or so people who have peaked [sic] at the plans have embraced the idea quickly.

“The majority of cities in Eastern Jackson County are on board,” Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross said.

On the Kansas side, Wyandotte County could conceivably participate as it does today by contract with KCATA. Johnson County has denounced any sort of true, bi-state transit entity — and don’t expect that to change anytime soon. There’s no indication who would operate the DMU-style service, but a well-known operator sits right in our backyard.

The plan is the result of planning work that began in the spring.

No capital funding has been identified for the estimated $1 billion cost, but county officials pledge trips to Washington for a majority of the cost (presumably in an earmark from retiring Senator You-Know-Who, since the next federal transportation bill is in limbo).

When it’s needed someday, just adding a fourth lane to Interstate 70 from downtown Kansas City to I- 435 near the stadiums will cost about $3 billion.

Operational funding would require a new sales tax of as little as 1/8-cent for each of the three counties, which share a population of just under one million. Presumably, some routes would negate the need for KCATA express bus routes paid for today out of affected cities’ general funds (Independence, Raytown, Blue Springs, Lee’s Summit, and Liberty).

Some cities would be served that have no transit service at all, such as Grandview, Riverside, Kearney, and Oak Grove.

The proposed system appears to follow the Commuter Corridors that are part of MARC’s SmartMoves regional transit plan. A few complementary projects (here, here, here, and here) have also been submitted to MARC’s long-range transportation plan.

The terminus at Union Station would be served by the downtown streetcar proposed by KCATA.


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