By John Sharp
Construction of the final ll.3-mile section of the Rock Island Trail that will run from Brickyard Rd. south of Missouri Highway 350 near Noland Rd. to the Jackson County Sports Complex should begin within a month and a half, according to Matt Davis, Rock Island Program Manager for Jackson County Parks + Rec.
Davis said the project will take about a year and a half to complete and will cost a little over $11 million. He said the trail will end in Lot L in the southeast corner of the Sports Complex by Blue Ridge Cutoff, outside the gates for admission to the Complex.
The first 6.4-mile section of the trail from Jefferson St. west of Missouri Highway 291 in Lee’s Summit to Brickyard Rd. opened June 1.
Construction of the initial phase of the trail was relatively easy, Davis said, since it was mainly built on the old Rock Island rail bed and only needed a new surface. He said some form of mass transit is more likely to be built in the northern section of the trail corridor sooner than in the southern section, so the rail bed in that section will be reserved for that with the trail constructed from scratch adjacent to it.
Preserving the rail bed for future mass transit use also requires building five new trail bridges for cyclists and hikers in the northern section, he said.
The county hopes to connect the Rock Island Trail to the Katy Trail that runs across Missouri from St. Charles to Windsor. The recently completed trail called the Rock Island Spur now extends the trail from Windsor to Pleasant Hill, but Davis said there is still about an 8-mile gap “as the crow flies” between Pleasant Hill and the current terminus of the Rock Island Trail in Lee’s Summit.
Davis said the county has received two federal matching grants totaling $950,000 to help pay for construction for the first phase of closing that gap (called the Greenwood connector) which he said should allow for about one and a half miles of the new trail to be built that should take it from Lee’s Summit to near the Greenwood city limits.
The county will have to pay for designing that section of the trail, he said, and provide a 20 percent match for the federal grants for construction. He said he hopes design work can start in early 2020 and construction can start in early 2021.
He said the county will continue to look for grant and other funding opportunities to eliminate the rest of this relatively small gap and allow cyclists and hikers to cross the state from one major metropolitan area to the other which is expected to boost tourism all along the route.