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 is dotted with 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.
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 beside 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.
Vale Tunnel isn’t the longest tunnel in Missouri just for fun! In fact, this tunnel, with its impressive size, 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!
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 that would connect 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 as a result of this, 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.
The Vale Tunnel Today
After the local government of Jackson County, Missouri purchased the abandoned and closed Vale Tunnel, the question arose of how to best utilize this fascinating piece of history. With that in mind, the Rock Island Rail Trail was created.
The Rock Island Rail Trail is a local trail that incorporates Vale Tunnel. In the years following Jackson County’s acquisition of the longest tunnel in Missouri, a multi-phase plan was developed to transform Vale Tunnel into a local experience. In both stages of the plan, Vale Tunnel was framed as the centerpiece of the trail.
The first phase created the Rock Island Rail Trail. This was completed in June 2019, just three years after the county came to own the tunnel. Originally, the trail was only 6.4 miles. However, stage two of the plan to create the Rock Island Rail expanded further on the blueprints and foundation established in 2019. Finished in 2021, stage two added another seven miles onto the trail for a total of 13.4 miles. This stage also added lighting to Vale Tunnel.
The completion of stage two was celebrated with a “Ride the Rock” event held in the summer of 2021. This event saw hundreds of cyclists coming to be among the first to experience this unique trail.
Today, Vale Tunnel and the Rock Island Rail Trail are considered to be top locations to visit when you’re passing through Missouri. With miles of paved trails, this accessible wilderness experience gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture as well as 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!
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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