Connecting Lee’s Summit’s trail system to the Katy Trail is a matter of picking a route and finding at least a couple of million dollars.
Lee’s Summit’s Parks and Recreation Department hired the Kansas City consultant firm, Vireo Inc., to help it do an analysis of the best solution. A report on that study was given to the Parks and Recreation Board June 28.
The study looked for the safest and most affordable route.
“The less it’s going to cost, the greater is the feasibility it’s going to happen,” said Joe Snook, interim parks administrator for Lee’s Summit.
The consultants, working with parks staff, oulined several variations of a possible route and said cost estimates range from $2.5 million to $4.3 million. The least expensive option would use existing roads for about 70 percent of the 11-mile span to reach Pleasant Hill from Jefferson Street in Lee’s Summit.
The route in some places needs construction of shoulders and bike lanes or multi-use trails off the road.
Steve Casey, superintendent of park planning and construction, said the study was a long look at the problem.
“We’re trying to narrow in on the low-hanging fruit, using roadways, sidewalks and our existing trails,” Casey said.
Jackson County, through the Rock Island Rail Corridor Authority, is considering the same question. The county and Kansas City Area Transportation Authority purchased part of the former Rock Island Rail Road corridor that runs from the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex to Pleasant Hill.
But there is a gap. The county did not buy the tail end of the corridor, leaving a missing section that starts west of Hamblen Road in Lee’s Summit, spans Greenwood and rural areas in north Cass County. There’s also a funding shortfall.
Snook said the county expects money in hand for the project will run out about where construction begins at Jefferson Street.
The county’s plan is to build on the railbed on the south end of the corridor, but build alongside the tracks farther north, between Interstate 470 and the sports complex to allow for eventual construction of commuter rail of some sort.
The Lee’s Summit’s study highlights one route from Jefferson Street, using Bailey Road, Ranson Road, through roads and a path in James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area, and Browning and Smart roads.
It could use existing roadway or, in the more expensive scheme, buy easements or property in a couple of segments along the route. It would ultimately connect with an existing trail at Pleasant Hill Lake.
That route, however, bypasses central Greenwood, where city officials would like to see a trail that goes along Missouri 150, the town’s main drag.
Greenwood Mayor Levi Weaver said that bringing the trail through Greenwood is important because the trail would make it safer for pedestrian and cyclists already using the shoulders of Missouri 150. His city doesn’t have the budget to build sidewalks along Missouri 150, he said.
Plus it would raise Greenwood’s profile in the metropolitan area.
“It brings more exposure for our town and our antique district, which will promote economic development,” Weaver said.
An obstacle to Lee’s Summit’s plan is that the proposed route depends on using trails and roads already existing in the wildlife area owned by the Missouri Department of Conservation. Snook said local conservation officials are “lukewarm” to the idea.
Snook said a compromise could be to create a spur that runs into Greenwood from the main trail.
A different route down Missouri 291 to Missouri 150 then east, would be much more expensive. That would require more property acquisition than the route recommended by Vireo.
He said the parks department would be sharing its results with the city’s Liveable Streets Advisory Board, Jackson County and other parties.
He said he hopes that Cass County, Jackson County, the rail authority, Lee’s Summit and Pleasant Hill will build a coalition that could apply for state and federal grants to help fund the project.
“What we want to avoid is two competing plans to get this done,” Snook said. “The less it’s going to cost, the greater the feasibility it’s going to happen.”