There is more to Amtrak than the Northeast Corridor, and good things are happening in the Midwest thanks to sustained federal investment in regional passenger rail. That was the message delivered on May 23-24 when MIPRC commissioners and partners visited Washington, D.C., to meet with Midwestern members of Congress and federal officials.
MIPRC’s delegation briefed House and Senate transportation-related committee staffers and met with 39 key Midwestern members of Congress who sit on those committees; and met with Ron Batory, the new administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and with Richard Anderson, the new CEO of Amtrak.
Commissioners stressed the importance of a strong state/federal partnership to preserve and improve intercity passenger rail, and highlighted the improvements to the region’s passenger rail system made possible through federal funding awards, as well as ongoing plans to strengthen and develop service.
Commissioners provided updates on improvements to state-supported services like infrastructure upgrades to 110-mph service on the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit corridors, the introduction of Siemens-built “Charger” locomotives and the “Amtrak Midwest” brand, and the pending delivery of new single-level passenger cars. Commissioners also drew attention to the long-term increases in ridership on routes that serve the Midwest – up 20 percent on state-supported routes from Fiscal Year 2007 to FY 2017, and up 19 percent on long-distance routes over the same period.
MIPRC commissioners on the 2018 trip included: MIPRC chair Beth McCluskey, director of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Office of Intermodal Project Implementation (Illinois); MIPRC Financial Officer Rep. Sharon Negele and Jim Stark, director of multimodal at the Indiana Department of Transportation (Indiana); Rep. Brad Ralph and Pete Meitzner (Kansas); Joan Bray (Missouri); Sen. Dan Quick (Nebraska); Rep. Kim Koppelman (North Dakota); and Sen. Mark Miller (Wisconsin).
Commissioners were joined by MIPRC corporate partners Siemens (Steve Morrison) and WSP (Phil Pasterak and Anna Lynn Smith).
See MIPRC's presentation to Congressional staffers here. Read our advocacy points here.
MIPRC's 2017 Annual Meeting was held on October 9-11 in Wichita, KS. The agenda is here; a summary of the meeting is here.
Presentations made during the meeting included:
• Updates from member states on their passenger rail activities (DOT representatives from the states)
• An update/outlook for passenger rail at the federal level from Amtrak (Caroline Decker, Amtrak)
• Updates on federal funding for passenger rail from the Federal Railroad Administration (Will Dyer, FRA), and on the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study (Peter Schwartz, FRA)
• Limitations of states in multistate passenger rail development (Jon Davis, MIPRC)
• A spotlight on efforts to extend the Heartland Flyer (Wichita Ald. Pete Meitzner, KS governor's private-sector appointee to MIPRC, and Newton, KS, Mayor Barth Hague)
• An overview of Amtrak’s long-distance passenger rail service in the Midwest. (Derrick James, Amtrak)
MIPRC's 2018 Annual Meeting will be held October 3-5 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
MIPRC commissioners met with 49 Midwestern Members of Congress and/or their staff during individual office visits in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2017 to stress the importance of maintaining a strong federal/state partnership for passenger rail development. Commissioners also illuminated the growing demand for regional passenger rail in the Midwest, along with recent developments in track and equipment upgrades. (See MIPRC’s key advocacy points here.)
Commissioners emphasized the continuing strong increases in ridership both on state-supported corridor service and the region’s long-distance trains, highlighted the need for ongoing federal investment in passenger rail, similar to other modes of transportation, and pointed out that higher speed passenger rail can be built without compromising the role played by freight rail. Commissioners also noted the economic, energy and environmental benefits of regional plans to build a network of faster, more frequent passenger rail.
Commissioners and MIPRC staff also met with Amtrak officials to discuss Amtrak’s and MIPRC’s priorities and the current Congressional session.
The previous day (May 22), MIPRC hosted briefings for House and Senate staff, providing them with overviews of MIPRC’s organization and aims, the current state of passenger rail service and ridership across the Midwest, a state-by-state summary of recent corridor improvements made possible through federal funding to states for passenger rail capital improvements and planning, and the FRA-led long-term Midwest Regional Rail study (see MIPRC’s presentation here).
Commissioners also requested that Congress fully fund the passenger rail-related grant programs in the FAST Act to their authorized levels, and maintain funding for the popular TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) discretionary grant program. The administration’s budget, coincidentally released on May 23, proposes to eliminate all funding for Amtrak’s long-distance trains and the TIGER grant program. (See MIPRC’s letter to Congress opposing those cuts here.)
“Having state legislators and governor’s designees meeting with members of Congress or their staff provides MIPRC the opportunity to express the states’ commitment to intercity passenger rail and the need for a strong federal partner,” said MIPRC Chair Tim Hoeffner, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail and Gov. Rick Snyder’s designee to MIPRC. “The states have stepped up and we need the federal government to stand with the states.”
MIPRC’s 2016 annual meeting was held September 27-29, in St. Louis, Mo.
Click here for the meeting agenda.
The meeting began in Chicago with a brief tour of renovations underway at Union Station, and a ride on Amtrak’s Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio, Texas) to St. Louis. Aboard the train, commissioners, partners and allies heard about – and saw – ongoing work to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis corridor to 110-mph service between Joliet and Alton by the end of 2017 or early 2018. They also received an update from Amtrak, with a special emphasis on state-supported routes.
The St. Louis portion of the meeting included a half-day trip on the state-supported Missouri River Runner to Kirkwood for a tour of that city’s historic station (see photo, below) and presentations on how the city has embraced the station as both a gateway and popular civic space/downtown anchor; and on the success of the Missouri River Runner service and the Missouri Passenger Rail Advisory Committee (MORPAC).
Commissioners spent Wednesday afternoon and all of Thursday at the St. Louis City Center hotel hearing and discussing presentations from the MIPRC states on the status of their passenger rail programs/activities, along with reviews of MIPRC’s past-year activities and the pending Midwest regional rail planning project with the Federal Railroad Administration. They also reviewed the Universities and Colleges Passenger Rail Survey and discussed steps to follow up on its findings and recommendations. Other topics included updates on federal passenger rail-related legislation and rulings, the Next Generation Equipment Committee and the status of new equipment coming to the Midwest.
Commission business included election of commission officers for FY 2017: Tim Hoeffner, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail (and Governor Snyder’s designee to the commission) as MIPRC’s chair; Joan Bray, Missouri Gov. Nixon’s designee to the commission, as vice chair; and Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn as financial officer.
Commissioners also honored two of their own who are not seeking re-election: Indiana Representative Randy Truitt and Missouri Senator David Pearce. In the photo at left, MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer presents Sen. Pearce with a bottle opener fashioned from a railroad spike engraved with his name and dates of MIPRC service, as a "thank you" gift. (From left to right: MIPRC Vice Chair Joan Bray, Sen. Pearce, MIPRC DIrector Kliewer, MIPRC Chair TIm Hoeffner and Financial Officer Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn.) A similar spike was sent to Rep Truitt, who was not at the meeting.
The 2017 annual meeting is tentatively set for the fall, in Lafayette, Ind.
Copies of presentations and handouts from the meeting can be found below:
Chicago-St. Louis High Speed Rail (John Oimoen and Todd Popish, Illinois DOT)
Amtrak FY 16 Update (Jim Brzezinski, Amtrak)
Handout on Improving Missouri’s Passenger Rail System (Eric Curtit, Missouri DOT)
Overview of the Missouri Rail Passenger Advisory Committee (Eric Curtit, Missouri DOT)
The Status of Passenger Rail Improvements in the Region and Plans for the Future (DOT representatives from MIPRC states describe the status of passenger rail projects and planning in their states)
MIPRC University Partnerships Committee presentation on the MIPRC University & Colleges Passenger Rail Survey (Sen. David Pearce, Missouri)
Amtrak Outreach to Midwestern Colleges (Jim Brzezinski, Amtrak)
MIPRC Federal Overview
The Status of the Midwest’s FRA-Led Planning Project (Tim Hoeffner, MIPRC Chair)
Siemens’ Charger Locomotives (Dave Ward, Siemens)
MIPRC’s 2015 Annual Meeting took place on September 22-25 in St. Paul, MN.
Select presentations from the meeting:
Investing in the Future of Chicago Union Station (Ray Lang, Amtrak)
Evaluation of a Second Daily Passenger Train Between Minnesota and Chicago (Dan Krom, Minnesota DOT)
The Status of Passenger Rail Improvements in the Region and Plans for the Future (DOT representatives from MIPRC states discuss the status of passenger rail projects and planning in their states)
MIPRC’s Federal Priorities
Regional Rail Planning (Kyle Gradinger, FRA)
Amtrak’s Priorities in the Midwest (Ray Lang, Amtrak)