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Archive for Sunday, December 9, 2001

Rail line might alleviate many commuters’ daily traffic concerns

December 9, 2001

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Thinking ahead to the ice and snow that winter may dump on Kansas highways makes rural Douglas County resident Stacey Lamb a little nervous about her 45-minute commute to Kansas City, Mo.

It also makes her think a proposed commuter rail line between Topeka and Kansas City is a great idea.

"How nice it would be to know I don't have to worry," Lamb said. "I'm going to be on this train, and they're going to be doing all the driving. That would be a huge factor for me."

Discussions about the Kansas City-based rail are still preliminary. Questions of cost and who would cover the expense haven't been answered. Mid-America Regional Council of Kansas City, Mo., is working on a feasibility study and has conducted several public forums including one in Lawrence to gauge support for commuter rail.

"From our initial screening of ridership, there are three feasible lines that are looking pretty good," said Darryl Fields, project manager for the study.

Those lines include a corridor from Topeka through Lawrence to Union Station in Kansas City, Mo.; another along Interstate 70 in Missouri through Independence to Odessa; and a third from Kansas City to Warrensburg, Mo.

Lawrence resident Kimberly Anderson, who drives 45 minutes each morning to a job near the Grandview Triangle in Kansas City, Mo., said commuter rail sounded enticing. But she wondered if it would really work for her.

"If it would drop me off around Crown Center or the Plaza or somewhere where I'd have to find another way to get to work, that wouldn't be worth my time," she said.

Fields said he's found that people often confuse commuter rail with light or heavy rail, both of which require their own dedicated right of way. But commuter rail works on existing rail lines such as the Union Pacific line north of the Kansas River or the Santa Fe line south of the river thus decreasing start-up costs, Fields said.

And commuter rail lines would only run during peak service times morning and evening rush hour, Fields said.

That's fine with Lamb, as long as it would be cheaper than the way she gets to work now. Lamb rides in a vanpool with a handful of other people who take turns driving.

The reasons she chooses to vanpool avoiding wear-and-tear on her car, body and mind and saving the environment are the same reasons that would compel her to catch the train. But the train, she said, would have an added bonus:

"You don't have to depend on anybody but yourself," she said. "It's always there on time. It's fairly inexpensive. You get in and you go and you get there."

The commuter rail study team intends to provide an implementation strategy by the end of January or mid-February, Fields said.

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