- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Kansas City area would be closer to connecting to Missouri’s cross-state Katy Trail under a newly announced plan.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1JDAQue ) reports that Jackson County and the area’s transit agency announced Wednesday the purchase of a rail corridor from Lee’s Summit to near the Truman Sports Complex.

Should the $52 million deal go through, the new link would make it possible to someday hop on a bike almost anywhere in the metro area, connect to the new trail on existing paths and ride all the way to St. Louis. Commuter rail service could also use the current corridor, when and if financing is found for that project.

“A trail system stretching across the state, connecting St. Louis and Kansas City, has been our dream,” said Brent Hugh at the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. “This is the last major piece needed to turn that dream into a real cross-state trail.”

County Executive Mike Sanders says he expects the purchase to be finalized within four weeks. It will take another six months to a year to get federal approval, allowing work to begin.

Under the agreement, Jackson County will borrow the money to buy the rail corridor, but the ATA will share equally in making debt payments totaling $2.8 million annually for 30 years.

No tax increases are anticipated, officials said. Jackson County’s share will come from property taxes already collected annually for the county road and bridge fund. The ATA’s share will come from local tax dollars set aside in a capital fund that pays for buses, bus stops and the like. The corridor might eventually produce revenue of its own to pay some of the money being borrowed.

Eric Rogers, executive director of the advocacy group BikeWalkKC, called the news “awesome” and said, “It’ll be a big step forward for transportation, economic development and bicycle tourism.”

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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