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FRA-led long-term study of Midwest passenger rail service now underway

FRA-led long-term study of Midwest passenger rail service now underway

The Federal Railroad Administration has formally launched an 18-month Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study of how to develop a 40-year framework for high-performance, intercity passenger rail service in our region.

The effort’s roots go back to the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement (PRIIA) Act of 2008, which authorized passenger rail corridor programs and funding to improve planning in those corridors. The FRA in 2011 began its national planning effort with a pilot study of the Southwest that developed a “toolkit” for use in regional planning efforts. (See that study’s Summary and Technical reports.)

At the same time, MIPRC and the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative steering committee began discussions with the FRA, proposing a series of FRA-led workshops which would help identify the governance structure the Midwest will need to plan and move forward in the future with regional passenger rail development and oversight, and to begin the next phase of regional planning.

Ultimately, FRA issued a “Call for Statements of Interest and Qualifications for Federally-Led Regional Rail Planning Projects,” and in November 2014, MIPRC submitted on behalf of the Midwest a Statement of Interest and Qualifications. At the end of July 2015, we were notified that the Midwest and Southeast had been chosen as the first regions to undertake this new study.

The planning effort’s lead stakeholders are twelve Midwestern state departments of transportation – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin – and MIPRC. Thirty supporting stakeholders include local governments, MPOs, railroads, public and private passenger rail operators, transit agencies and other regional and statewide planning and advocacy organizations. See the full list of stakeholders here.

A “kickoff” meeting was held March 8, 2017, in Chicago, at which key network elements were reviewed and common network goals for regional passenger rail service were defined. The next meeting is set for June 7, 2017, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

You can follow the progress of the Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study at www.midwestrailplan.org. Submit questions and comments, or subscribe for regular updates here.

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