This week two very informative articles appeared in the papers about the TranSystems Regional Rapid Rail concept and the hard work Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders has done to promote the idea. Both articles discuss problems the plan is encountering and give an update of its status. We strongly encourage you to read them both since they provide different but complementary information.
Report by KC Star’s Brad Cooper and Michael Mansur –Area rail plans advance slowly. Included in the article is a quote by Transit Action Network advocate Janet Rogers.
Report by the Pitch’s David Martin- Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders puts his energy and his reputation into an unlikely commuter-rail plan.
Transit Action Network reported on July 15 that four of the six lines in the Regional Rapid Rail plan are not being pursued at this point. Federal money is being requested by Mid-America Regional Council to study the remaining two lines and a downtown streetcar distribution system.
Additional information about this concept:
The Regional Rapid Rail concept does not use streetcars or light rail. Both of those are electrified and light-weight by train standards. This idea uses Diesel Multiple Units (DMU). Each DMU would be a two-car train probably run on bio-diesel fuel. They can run on freight lines and city streets. This plan uses underused, abandoned freight lines and new tracks in the suburbs. These freight lines are not available in Jackson County once the train enters Kansas City north of the Truman Sports Complex. At that point it would run on new tracks laid on the streets in what is being called a COMMON LINE for the trains from eastern Jackson County. With this concept the trains on the common line would not function like streetcars or light rail, but would travel much like regular trains except they would be on the streets.
The $2 million Alternatives Analysis (AA) is being requested for these two routes:
The two remaining corridors, the I-70 corridor to Blue Springs and beyond using the Kansas City Southern line, and the Rock Island corridor via Raytown and Lee’s Summit, face their own challenges.
These two lines would share the common line from the vicinity of Union Station — the proposed passenger facility would be across the tracks to the north of Union Station and not in the station itself (freight house district in the region of Lidias Restaurant). The common line would travel to the vicinity of 23rd Street and the Blue River where it would link with the Rock Island right-of-way. This common line would probably be along yet-to-be identified streets. (Truman Road was studied originally but other alignments would be investigated in the AA).
The Rock Island corridor would have to be completely re-built because the existing rails and roadbed have not been maintained since the last trains used them some 30 years ago.
The I-70 corridor faces additional challenges since it is so circuitous. The current alignment has commuter trains from Blue Springs traveling on the existing KCS line to near 33rd and Noland Road, from which there would be a new line parallel to the existing Union Pacific line south to I-70, then westward along the I-70 right-of-way to a point near Blue Ridge Cut-Off where the route would head south to join the Rock Island line south of Truman Sports Complex.
If federal money is received to study the remaining two commuter routes, a downtown streetcar will be reviewed as well.
For the commuter routes, Expanded Express Buses, Light Rail Transit and Regional Rapid Rail would be evaluated and compared in the commuter corridors.
The study of the downtown circulation system would evaluate and compare Local Bus and Bus Rapid Transit, Streetcar and Light Rail Transit.
Various reasons the other four commuter routes will have express bus/bus on shoulder recommended for the near term:
+ The Wyandotte County corridor has little congestion, relatively little ridership potential as a commuter rail line, and would require significant new right of way.
+ The I-29 and I-35 corridors require the high cost of a Missouri River bridge, and have low ridership projections. The I-29 corridor faces the added challenge of re-assembling an old inter-urban alignment that has been abandoned for many decades. The I-35 corridor faces the added challenge of a very circuitous route: commuters to and from Liberty, for example, would travel via Riverside and the north edge of North Kansas City.
+ The US 71 corridor was eliminated largely because of low ridership projections. In addition, the alignment under consideration would run on or near Van Brunt Extension and Swope Parkway, and would require a new and yet-to-be defined corridor from near the south edge of Swope Park to an intersection with the existing Kansas City Southern line in the vicinity of 83rd and I-435.