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Midwestern states submit Statement of Interest for FRA-Led Regional Rail Planning

On Nov. 12, MIPRC submitted a Statement of Interest and Qualifications on behalf of the Midwestern states for participating in an FRA-led regional rail planning process.

In October, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) of the U.S. Department of Transportation invited groups of states to submit “Statements of Interest and Qualifications for a Federally-Led Regional Planning Process.” The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) organized the Midwest’s effort to apply for the regional passenger rail planning that the FRA will lead. States include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The MIPRC-led Statement of Interest and Qualifications proposes both planning long-term and determining a governance structure to coordinate ongoing regional planning, oversight, and political and educational efforts. The proposal included a process that will update the work outlined in the 2004 Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) plan. The process would encompass additional states, new and potential routes, rail work already completed in the states, and studies undertaken by various groups in the Midwest. It would include a wide variety of cooperating entities – states, cities, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, freight railroads, Amtrak and higher education institutions.

The FRA’s planning process would build on the work the Midwestern states have accomplished through coordination over the past 20 years. We would expect corridor projects to be identified and prioritized and a process for their on-going advancement be developed – from preliminary planning to environmental review to construction. Results from the multistate planning effort will give guidance to the National Rail Plan.

Submittals were due Nov. 12, and in the short timeframe provided, the Midwest received more than 90 letters of support from a wide variety of supporters across the region – such as participating departments of transportation, cities and counties, MPOs, freight railroads, elected officials, unions, universities and advocacy organizations.

Last spring, the FRA announced its intention to use money redirected from another funding pot that hasn’t been used (Maglev) for planning, including for multistate planning, at 100% federal share. During its annual meeting in June, MIPRC commissioners had approved MIPRC applying for the FRA-led multistate planning effort whenever it was formally announced.

The FRA is expected to provide an update on its decision-making process in December.

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