Yesterday, MIPRC and the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) steering committee sent a joint letter to US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, asking him to remove the three-year cap on allowing states to use the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) for intercity passenger rail funds operations.
Several of our states have used – or plan to use – CMAQ funding to help offset the cost of operating passenger rail service. Using CMAQ funds for intercity passenger rail operating expenses is a decision for each individual state, but having that flexibility is key.
On October 15, MIPRC and the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) steering committee submitted joint comments into the Federal Railroad Administration’s draft guidance for the state development of rail plans.
Secretary LaHood has announced a $551 million RFP for the U.S. manufacturing of approximately 130 new bi-level passenger rail cars, including 88 passenger cars that will run on 8 corridors in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and potentially Iowa. Illinois is the lead Midwestern state on the joint passenger rail equipment purchase that was awarded $268 million through the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program last May (2011). In addition, two other HSIPR awards that Illinois received (for the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Omaha corridors) have additional funding for equipment included.
Passenger rail ridership on state-supported and other shorter distance corridors (less than 750 miles) in the Midwest continues to thrive. Ridership on these nine routes grew by 5.4 percent in FY 2011, and exceeded the 2.9 million mark. Over the past five years, corridor ridership in the Midwest has grown by 54 percent. Nationwide, Amtrak experienced an all-time ridership record of 30.2 million passengers for the fiscal year, which ended September 30.
Michigan’s Blue Water service between Chicago and Port Huron experienced the region's largest ridership increase, up 18.6 percent, while ridership increases on Illinois’ Illini/Saluki service between Chicago and Carbondale followed close behind, at 18.2 percent.
Today, U.S. Secretary Ray LaHood announced that Illinois and California (as the lead states) have reached cooperative agreements with the Federal Railroad Administration to begin a multi-state procurement of passenger rail equipment for corridors in California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Oregon and Washington State.