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MIPRC supports Midwestern submissions to FRA's new Corridor ID & Development Program
Jon Davis
/ Categories: News

MIPRC supports Midwestern submissions to FRA's new Corridor ID & Development Program

MIPRC has filed 10 letters of support for state-supported projects with the Federal Railroad Administration to boost Midwestern states’ own submissions to the inaugural funding round of the new federal Corridor Identification & Development Program.

Eight letters were sent for state-sponsored routes and two for projects proposed by other entities, which MIPRC states support. (Links to each of MIPRC’s letters can be found at the end of the article.)

“We’re excited to see our member states enthusiastically undertaking   many improvements to existing routes and making plans to institute new routes in this first round of a wonderful new program that will allow FRA to prioritize projects in the pipeline from conception to construction, help the Midwest substantially strengthen its passenger rail network, and begin to build out the Midwest Regional Rail Plan,” said Laura Kliewer, MIPRC’s director.

“Twenty years of joint planning and development has positioned all our member states to submit and support strong applications that, if chosen, will provide new and improved passenger rail service to rural, urban and underserved communities, significantly strengthen the Midwest’s transportation system and improve our region’s economy,” she added.

State-sponsored route applications supported by MIPRC include:

Illinois: Improvements to the existing state-supported Lincoln Service’s Chicago-St. Louis corridor, and the Illini/Saluki’s Chicago-Carbondale corridor; and new service corridors from Chicago to the Quad Cities and Rockford.

Indiana: Improvements to, and increased frequencies on, the Chicago-Indianapolis corridor.

Kansas: Extension of the state-supported Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton, KS, via Wichita. This is a joint proposal with the Oklahoma and Texas departments of transportation.

Michigan: Improvements and increased service on the existing state-supported Wolverine (Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac), Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron) and Pere Marquette (Chicago-Grand Rapids) services; and extension of the Wolverine across the U.S.-Canadian border to Windsor and, potentially, Toronto, Ont.

Minnesota: Construction of the long-planned Northern Lights Express corridor from Minneapolis to Duluth, MN via Superior, WI.

Missouri: Improvements and additional service on the state-supported Missouri River Runner corridor between St. Louis and Kansas City; establishing an extension of Illinois’ Chicago-Macomb Carl Sandburg/Illinois Zephyr service to Hannibal, MO; and studying potential new service corridors from Kansas City to St. Joseph (Northwest Missouri) and to Springfield and Joplin and possibly, Branson (Southwest Missouri).

Wisconsin: Enhancements to the pending new state-supported daily Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago service and a “downtown-to-downtown” connection between St. Paul and Minneapolis; and a three-part expansion of current Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha service beginning by increasing daily frequencies from on the route from seven to 10. Those three additional slots would be used to extend Hiawatha service to create 1) an additional daily frequency for the Great River service, 2) a new corridor to the Twin Cities via Madison and Eau Claire and 3) new service to Green Bay, WI.

MIPRC letters written for other corridors supported by member states include a proposed Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus-Pittsburgh route sponsored by the City of Fort Wayne, IN (and supported by the Indiana Department of Transportation), and the proposed restoration of the long-distance North Coast Hiawatha, proposed by the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority and supported by the North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin departments of transportation.

Applications to the Corridor ID program were due on Monday, March 27. Created by the Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act (a.k.a. the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law), the Corridor ID program will guide the development of new and enhanced intercity passenger rail services nationwide.

During MIPRC’s 2022 Annual Meeting, FRA officials said they will use the Corridor ID Program as the primary means for guiding financial support and technical assistance towards efforts to establish new intercity passenger rail corridors or improve existing services. They stressed this is a multi-year program, meaning that corridors which aren’t selected this time can be resubmitted in future rounds.

Selected corridors will undergo a three-step process (corridor sponsors will be able to decide after each step whether to move to the next one):
1.    Scoping and Program Initiation: FRA will provide $500,000 in “seed money” to get service planning work underway while corridor sponsors develop the scope, schedule and a budget for producing a Service Development Plan. For those selected, this first step requires no non-federal match.
2.    Service Development Planning: FRA will work with project sponsors to prepare a Service Development Plan that will identify capital projects and advance them in preparation for final design and construction (sponsors will need to provide a 10 percent match, but any unspent seed money from Step One can be used here).
3.    Project Development: Corridor sponsors complete environmental reviews and preliminary engineering (sponsors will need to provide a 20 percent match).

Projects that are chosen for the program and developed through preliminary engineering will benefit from a selection preference for final engineering and construction funding opportunities through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program.

In evaluating corridor proposals, FRA will target projects that bring tangible public benefits, and special emphasis will be paid to projects that benefit rural and underserved communities, FRA officials said in a press release announcing the program. Proposed corridors should make regional travel more sustainable and reduce congestion, boost local economies and create jobs, among other benefits, they said.

MIPRC’s letters of support: 
•    Hiawatha extensions
•    2nd Great River frequency
City of Fort Wayne, IN
Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority

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