The Longest Tunnel in Missouri Feels Like a Portal to Another Dimension

Welcome to Missouri sign
© iStock.com/fotoguy22

Written by Megan Martin

Updated: August 21, 2023

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With a rich history in trains and similar operations, the United States is known for its many tunnels and tunnel systems. However, do you know what the longest tunnel in Missouri is?

If not, don’t worry! Below, you’ll learn everything from the size of this tunnel to its interesting and unique history. Ready to learn more? Let’s jump right in. 

What Is the Longest Tunnel in Missouri?

The landscape of Missouri features several different tunnels. However, only one has the honor of being known as the longest tunnel the in the state. That tunnel would be Vale Tunnel

Infographic of Vale Tunnel
Vale Tunnel was the fourth and final tunnel on the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad line.

About Vale Tunnel

Vale Tunnel is a retired railway tunnel located in Kansas City, Missouri. With more than a century’s worth of history, which will be discussed in further detail below, Vale Tunnel has been known by many different names. Two of the most well-known names besides Vale Tunnel include the CRI&P Tunnel and the Valley of Vale Tunnel. It is a single-track railroad that previously chartered people from Kansas City to St. Louis as a part of the Missouri Central Railroad system.

The longest tunnel in Missouri is located in Kansas City.

Vale Tunnel, the longest tunnel in Missouri, is located in Kansas City.

©Sean Pavone/Shutterstock.com

Size

Vale Tunnel isn’t the longest tunnel in Missouri, just for fun! In fact, with its impressive size, this tunnel has well earned its title. From one entry to the next, Vale Tunnel measures around 441 feet. That’s the same length as six bowling lanes aligned from end to end!

History

Vale Tunnel was the fourth tunnel on the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific (CRI&P) Railroad line stretching between Kansas City and St. Louis. It was first constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, with the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad completing its construction between 1903 and 1904. Not only was it the fourth tunnel to be constructed on this railway, but it was also the final. It crosses beneath Bannister Road. 

The longest tunnel in Missouri operated successfully for many decades. Between 1904 and 1980, it was one of the main tunnels connecting Kansas City and St. Louis along the railway. However, despite having a successful operational career, the Vale Tunnel couldn’t run forever.

In 1980, the Vale Tunnel was officially closed for professional use along the railway. Despite many attempts to survive and thrive, its governing railroad line, then known as the Rock Island Line, filed for bankruptcy. With the railroad being liquidated in court, there were no train systems left to navigate through the Vale Tunnel.

However, the history of Vale Tunnel doesn’t end there. After its closure in 1980, there were several buyers, and consequently, owners, of the Vale Tunnel. Despite various changes, however, much of the rail line and Vale Tunnel have been untouched.

The most recent owner of Vale Tunnel came to own it in 2016. The buyer? None other than Jackson County, Missouri. That’s what leads us to the longest tunnel in Missouri today.

Vale Tunnel Today

After the local government of Jackson County, Missouri, purchased the abandoned and closed Vale Tunnel, the question arose of how to utilize this fascinating piece of history best. Keeping that in mind, they created the Rock Island Rail Trail.

The Rock Island Rail Trail is a local trail that includes Vale Tunnel. After Jackson County acquired the longest tunnel in Missouri, authorities developed a multi-phase plan to turn Vale Tunnel into a local experience. Both stages of the plan presented Vale Tunnel as the trail’s centerpiece. Workers completed the first phase of the Rock Island Rail Trail in June 2019, just three years after the county acquired the tunnel. Initially, the trail stretched 6.4 miles. Yet, the second stage, building on the blueprints and foundation from 2019, extended the Rock Island Rail. They finished this stage in 2021, adding another seven miles to the trail for a total of 13.4 miles, and installed lights in Vale Tunnel.

Eventually, they marked the completion of the second stage with a “Ride the Rock” event in the summer of 2021. Hundreds of cyclists attended, eager to be among the first to explore this unique trail. Now, many consider the Vale Tunnel and the Rock Island Rail Trail top locations to visit in Missouri. With miles of paved trails, this accessible wilderness experience allows you to immerse yourself in local culture and meet some of the local flora and fauna. When you’re on the trail, you can expect to see local animals such as deer, fox squirrels, and more!

Vale Tunnel, Kansas City, Missouri

Today, Vale Tunnel is used for local recreational experience and is now known as Rock Island Rail Trail.

©iStock.com/Lana2011

Where is Vale Tunnel Located on a Map?

Vale Tunnel can be accessed on Bannister Road in Kansas City, Missouri. Kansas City is located on the western border of the state.


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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