MISSOURI (KSNF/KODE) — Many people associate tunnels with vehicle traffic, but one of the longest underground trail in the Show-Me State is actually associated with trains.
The Vale Tunnel in Kansas City served the Missouri Central Railroad, which carried passengers across the state, from Saint Louis to Kansas City, and back again, since it first opened in 1904.
The 441ft long tunnel travels under Bannister Road — one of the busier east-west routes in the Kansas City Metro. Over the years, this rails-to-trails tunnel has had many different names, including the Vale Tunnel, the CRI-and-P Tunnel, and the Valley of Vale Tunnel. The underground section of this railway saw its last train pass through in 1980, shortly after the Rock Island Railroad declared bankruptcy. That’s when the tunnel and the rail line traversing the tunnel were left abandoned.
After several decades of abandonment, leading to vegetation overgrowth and many people simply forgetting about the tunnel’s existence, the underground route was given new life when in 2016, Jackson County bought the railroad line and gave the Rock Island Rail Corridor Authority, management over the railway-turned-“trailway.”
The Rock Island Rail Trail, which includes the Vale Tunnel, was constructed in two phases. Just three years after the county purchased the tunnel, the first phase (which created the Rock Island Rail Trail) was completed in the summer of 2019. Phase two, completed in 2021, expanded the trail from 6.4 miles to a total of 13.5 miles and added lighting to the Vale Tunnel.
For those who like to walk, run, or ride Missouri’s trail system, the Rock Island Rail Trail, which includes the Vale Tunnel are considered to be among the top destination spots in Missouri.