Rock Island Trail creates recreational connection for Missourians

Photo: Jackson County, Mo.

By Abby Hover
Managing Editor

This weekend, the much-anticipated phase two of the Rock Island Trail opened to the public with a ribbon cutting celebration on July 10 at the recently completed trailhead at the Truman Sports Complex.

The seven mile extension runs from Brickyard Road in Kansas City, through Raytown, Mo. to the Truman Sport Complex. The stadium trailhead is located in Lot L, accessible through Gate 3 off of Blue Ridge Cutoff.

Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr., Jackson County Parks and Rec and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) invited local officials, community members and media to celebrate the occasion and enjoy a great day on the trail. Additionally, guests had an opportunity to leave their mark on the project by signing a piece of rail from the historic Rock Island line. The rail piece will be displayed at a Jackson County Parks and Rec facility.

“The County had a vision to revitalize and energize our community in a way we have never seen before, and now that it has finally come to life, I am so proud and excited to celebrate this major accomplishment,” White said. “With the support of the Legislature, our visitors will enjoy an experience like no other on the Rock Island Trail, including riding a bike all the way from Lee’s Summit to a game, concert or event at the Truman Sports Complex. I am deeply grateful to our Parks and Rec leadership, Rock Island team, contractor and partners for their hard work and perseverance to see this beautiful project through to the very end.”

Combined with phase one, which opened in June 2019, the entire trail is 13.5 miles in length. With completion of the Rock Island Trail, Jackson County now has more than 150 miles of trails in its parks system for people to enjoy.

The new trail segment includes three new trailheads and parking areas, the preservation and re-use of four former railroad bridges and five new trail-only bridges, including the new Wildwood Bridge, which at over 300 feet in length is one of the longest trail bridges in the region.

“We are very excited to open phase two and celebrate the completion of the Rock Island Trail,” said Matt Davis, Rock Island Project manager. “This project transformed a blighted railroad corridor into a beautiful place for Jackson County residents to exercise, recreate and connect with their community. We are proud to finally share this wonderful amenity with the community.”

Following the County’s ribbon cutting ceremony, visitors walked and biked the brand new trail from the stadium trailhead, encountering other activities along the way, including a dedication of the Raytown Chamber Trailhead at noon.

The total construction costs for phase two of the trail was $11.6 million, paid for by Jackson County with grants from the Missouri Department of Transportation and Kansas City, Mo. 

This is the last big piece of the statewide Rock Island/Katy Trail system Missouri’s bikers have been envisioning for more than 25 years. There are, as always, some gaps in the system – but in the grand outline, this is it, according to the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.

With the completion of this westernmost section of the Rock Island Trail, Missouri now has 376.5 miles of nearly seamlessly connected trail stretching almost from the Kansas to Illinois state lines and connecting communities with millions of residents along the way.

The federation has been working on high-quality bicycle routes, using existing trails and low-traffic roads, that will connect riders to the new trail. Bikers can now ride from just about anywhere in the metro area, including the airport, Amtrak station, the Northland, Kansas City, Kan., Johnson County, and Independence, to the Jackson County Rock Island Trail and from there access the statewide Rock Island/Katy Trail system. It connects to the Brush Creek Trail, the Trolley Track Trail, and Indian Creek Trail, and Little Blue Trail, the Blue River Trail, and Line Creek Trail. MoBikeFed has compiled downloadable GPS routes & maps showing how.

Radmacher Brothers Construction of Pleasant Hill, Mo., built all 13.5 miles of the trail for Jackson County. The County acquired the 17.7-mile Rock Island Railroad Corridor in May 2016, in partnership with the KCATA to preserve the corridor for multi-modal transportation opportunities.

Additional information about the Rock Island and other Jackson County trails can be found online at www.makeyourdayhere.com.

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