MIPRC's 2023 Annual Meeting
MIPRC’s 2023 Annual Meeting began Sept. 18 at Chicago Union Station where commissioners, partners and allies gathered for lunch, presentations and a tour of Chicago Union Station before taking a late-afternoon Lincoln Service train to Normal, Illinois, for the remainder of the meeting.
In Chicago, meeting participants were briefed on plans for the station’s renovation and track/platform capacity expansion and new equipment for Midwest regional service. They then toured the station and got a preview of improvements made by Illinois to allow for 110-miles per hour service in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor before boarding the train to Normal. MIPRC thanks the Illinois Department of Transportation and Amtrak for enabling this portion of the meeting.
Upon an on-time arrival in Normal, MIPRC meeting attendees were briefed on the city’s station and its role as a catalyst in its downtown redevelopment, as well as plans for future additions and improvements.
Attendees were welcomed by Normal Mayor (and Amtrak Board nominee) Chris Koos on the morning of the 19th before getting presentations on:
• MIPRC’s 2023 Year in Review (MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer)
• Member state DOT updates (various state DOT representatives)
• Updates on MIPRC’s applications for CRISI and Interstate Rail Compact grants (MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer)
• The Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) plans and programs (FRA Midwestern Division Chief Robert Buckley; FRA Project Manager Praveena Pidaparthi)
• FRA’s Long-Distance Service Study (FRA Office of Railroad Planning & Engineering Deputy Director Francis Loetterle)
• Amtrak’s long-distance service plans and priorities (Amtrak Director of Network Development Arun Rao; Amtrak Director of Government Affairs, State & Local Relations Derrick James)
• The role of consultants in passenger rail planning and development (Quandel Chief Engineer Bob Moore, Quandel Principal Engineer, Rail Planning & Modeling Charles Hoppesch)
• An outlook for federal funding of passenger rail in FY 2024 (Amtrak Director of Government Affairs Mariah Morales)
On the morning of the 20th, MIPRC commissioners preliminarily set the 2024 Annual Meeting for Minnesota (dates to be determined), gave final approval to the FY 24 budget and elected (or re-elected) a new slate of officers:
• Beth McCluskey, associate vice president & director of intermodal growth at TYLin International (the Illinois governor’s designee), who previously served as chair from 2017-19, replaces Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn as chair.
• Re-elected were Peter Anastor, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail (Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s designee) as vice chair and Scott Rogers (Wisconsin’s private sector appointee) as financial officer.
See the MIPRC News story on the meeting here.
MIPRC's CRISI grant application
On December 1, 2022, MIPRC submitted an application to the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration for a $5 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) planning grant to further develop the Midwest Regional Rail Plan. More information about this application can be found here.
On September 25, 2023, MIPRC learned that its application was not among the grants awarded for FY 2022. MIPRC will get a "debrief" from FRA officials before determining upon next steps.
MIPRC's 2023 Priorities
During MIPRC's 2022 annual meeting (see below), Commissioners agreed the Commission's top priorities for 2023 will be:
• Continuing the subcommittee that oversaw development of the commission’s CRISI grant application.
• Listing, tracking and supporting member states’ applications for the new Corridor Identification and Development program.
• Creating a new committee to develop and propose priorities to be included in MIPRC’s forthcoming funding request once the new Interstate Passenger Rail Compact program is formally unveiled, and a notification of funding opportunity (NOFO) is announced.
• Continue contributing constructive input into the FRA’s long-distance service study, including giving formal comments to the study’s lead staff on routes that would strengthen the Midwest’s overall network.
• Renewing focus on the need to reform PRIIA Section 209.
MIPRC's 2022 Annual Meeting
The 2022 Annual Meeting from Nov. 16-18 in Indianapolis began informally with a tour of Amtrak’s Beech Grove Maintenance Facility, where MIPRC commissioners, partners and allies learned about the site’s history and details of its work and workforce. FRA Administrator Amit Bose formally launched the meeting the next morning noting the newly available federal funding for passenger rail projects under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the flow of funding to Midwestern rail projects, and what he said is the growing importance of MIPRC’s role as the region’s coordinating entity for future planning and development.
• MIPRC’s 2022 Year in Review (MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer).
• Member state DOT updates (various state DOT representatives).
• An overview of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (Wynne Davis, FRA deputy director for regional outreach).
• An overview of the MIPRC-Amtrak joint application for a $5 million CRISI planning grant (MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer and Tim Hoeffner, senior consultant, Quandel Consultants).
• A discussion of the 750-mile threshold for state-supported vs. long-distance services under current federal law (MIPRC staff).
• An overview of Amtrak’s operations and integration plan for Chicago Union Station (Erik Cempel, Amtrak project manager, and Suzanne Mosher, Amtrak director of portfolio management; and Chris Kopp, HNTB associate vice president).
• An overview of the Rail Passengers Association's economic model for passenger rail (RPA President & CEO Jim Matthews).
• A three-part spotlight on our host state, Indiana, which included updates on state programs (Kristin Brier, multimodal director, and Venetta Keefe, rail programs manager, Indiana Department of Transportation), and work on passenger rail routes done by advocates from Indiana (Jack Daniel, vice president, Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association), and Ohio (Grace Galluci, executive director & CEO, Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency & Ohio Association of Regional Councils).
Commissioners approved a 2023 Congressional visit to Washington, D.C. (the first since 2019); set the 2023 Annual Meeting for Sept. 18-20 in Normal, Illinois; gave final approval for the fiscal year 2023 budget; and elected a new slate of officers:
• Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn replaces Bob Guy, Illinois state director for SMART-Transportation Division (Illinois’ private sector appointee), as chair.
• Peter Anastor, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail (Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s designee) remains as vice chair. Anastor was appointed by MIPRC’s officers in August 2022 as interim vice chair to replace Arun Rao (formerly Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ designee, who left the Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation for Amtrak).
• Scott Rogers (Wisconsin’s private sector appointee) replaces Indiana Rep. Sharon Negele as financial officer.
See the meeting agenda here. A MIPRC News post with more details on the meeting can be found here.
MIPRC's 2021 Annual Meeting
Commissioners, partners and allies of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission met in-person and via Zoom on October 13-15 for MIPRC's 2021 Annual Meeting, to assess regional developments since 2020 and plan for 2022. The meeting began on the 13th at Chicago Union Station with MIPRC and the Federal Railroad Administration jointly releasing the Midwest Regional Rail Plan. FRA Deputy Administrator Amit Bose then joined commissioners on the mid-day Wolverine train to Detroit.
The meeting continued in hybrid fashion on Oct. 14-15 at TechTown, a nonprofit business service organization on the Wayne State University campus. In addition to commissioners’ and partners’ in-person attendance, those unable to make the trip joined the meeting via Zoom. Following videotaped remarks from Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, presentations on the 14th included:
• MIPRC’s 2021 Year in Review (MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer)
• Amtrak’s ConnectsUS Plan (Paul Vilter, Amtrak, Asst. Vice President for Planning & Commercial Services)
• How We Move Forward Together (Roger Harris, Amtrak, Executive Vice President for Marketing)
• Status of Passenger Rail Improvements in the Region (various state DOT representatives)
• Next Steps for the Midwestern Regional Rail Plan (Peter Schwartz, FRA, Project Manager)
Commissioners also began discussing potential next steps for MIPRC, as the Midwest Regional Rail Plan suggests the Commission be the regional governance structure for carrying the plan forward. They agreed that in 2022, MIPRC should take steps to become an eligible grant recipient; and should create a sub-committee to propose next steps. Commissioners also agreed to empower that sub-committee to propose what to do with money set aside in MIPRC’s FY 2022 budget for planning purposes. The full Commission would then come together to approve any funding use.
Other 2022 priorities include supporting a grant application for overhauling the Midwestern equipment pool’s Siemens “Charger” locomotives, continuing to press for re-authorization of the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act and carrying forward other ongoing priorities from 2021. Finally, commissioners heard a “Spotlight on MIPRC Partner” presentation on Quandel Consultants from Melanie Johnson and Tim Hoeffner (a former MIPRC commissioner and officer), which highlighted Quandel’s long history of projects in the Midwest, and also explained the work being done to quantify the return-on-investment (ROI) for intercity passenger rail.
Commissioners also gave final approval for MIPRC’s 2022 budget and re-elected as officers Bob Guy (Illinois), chair; Arun Rao (Wisconsin DOT) vice chair; and Indiana Rep. Sharon Negele, financial officer.
See the full agenda here. See a full summary of the meeting here.
MIPRC’s 2022 Annual Meeting was tentatively set for the week of Nov. 14, in Illinois’ Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area.
MIPRC's 2021 Priorities
During MIPRC's 2020 annual meeting (see below), Commissioners agreed the Commission's top priorities for 2021 will be:
1) Prioritizing a state funding component for "TCMC" – the proposed second daily train between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago to compliment and supplement the daily Empire Builder. The project this year won a $31.8 million CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements) grant to help cover necessary track improvements, and a $12.6 million Restoration & Enhancement grant to cover startup costs; while Wisconsin and Amtrak provided matching funds, Minnesota has not – and that remains the only missing piece to begin construction of the required infrastructure improvements.
2) Push for federal funding to restore daily service on Amtrak’s long-distance routes, which was trimmed due to COVID-19-related ridership drops.
3) Pursue federal funding for next steps after the FRA’s Midwest Regional Rail Plan is formally released.
4) Continue pushing for re-authorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which expires next year (MIPRC’s current re-authorization principles can be seen here).
MIPRC's 2020 'Virtual' Annual Meeting
Commissioners, partners and allies of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission met via Zoom on November 10-11 for MIPRC's 2020 Annual Meeting, to assess regional developments since 2019 and plan for 2021. Over a day and a-half, attendees saw and discussed presentations on the status of passenger rail at the federal level after the Nov. 3 elections – with Anne Canby, director of OneRail, and Andrea Wohleber, a staffer on the U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee – and:
• MIPRC Year in Review (Laura Kliewer, MIPRC director)
• The FRA’s vision and priorities (Paul Nissenbaum, associate administrator for railroad policy & development)
• Amtrak’s vision and priorities (Joe McHugh, vice president – state-supported business line)
• Next steps for the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Plan (Peter Schwartz, project manager)
• Passenger rail developments in MIPRC states (state Departments of Transportation)
• Marketing the Midwest’s Passenger Rail Service: Take 2 (Crystal DuPont, project and marketing manager/passenger rail management, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, continuing a discussion from the 2019 Annual Meeting).
Commissioners unanimously re-elected Bob Guy as chair and Indiana Rep. Sharon Negele as financial officer. Guy is the Illinois state director for SMART-Transportation Division and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s private sector appointee to MIPRC. Rep. Negele is the Indiana House-appointed commissioner. They also unanimously elected Arun Rao as vice chair but kept outgoing vice chair David Simon in place pending Rao’s official appointment by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to the Commission. Rao is passenger rail implementation manager at the Wisconsin DOT and is expected to replace Simon as Gov. Evers’ designee to MIPRC (UPDATE: That appointment was made, effective December 4). Simon is now vice president, director of Wisconsin operations for Quandel Consultants.
See the full agenda here. See a full summary of the meeting here.
MIPRC's 2019 Annual Meeting & Trip to Capitol Hill
The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission combined its annual meeting and visit to Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., this October to amplify the region’s voice as Congress begins discussing renewal of the law that sets federal policy and authorizes spending on surface transportation (the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation [FAST] Act of 2015, which expires in 2020).
The full agenda can be seen here. A summary of the meeting can be seen here.
Presentations made during the meeting included:
- Updates on passenger rail activity from MIPRC member states’ departments of transportation.
- An update on the Midwest’s Next Generation Equipment Purchase (John Oimoen, deputy director, Illinois DOT Rail Division)
- An update on the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Study (Peter Schwartz, FRA project manager)
- Lessons learned from successful passenger rail grant applications (Will Dyer, chief of FRA’s national rail planning division)
- Marketing the Midwest’s passenger rail service (Tom Martinelli, publisher/chief content officer, Amtrak New York By Rail)
- Amtrak-Host Railroad Relations (Chris Zappi, Amtrak director, host railroads)
- An update on Ohio’s Chicago-Columbus-Pittsburgh Rapid Speed Transportation Initiative (Thea Walsh, director of transportation & infrastructure development, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Ohio Association of Regional Councils)
MIPRC's 2018 Annual Meeting
MIPRC's 2018 Annual Meeting was held on October 3-5 in Milwaukee, WI. 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 (Department of Transportation representatives from the states)
• An update/outlook for passenger rail at the federal level from Amtrak (Derrick James, Amtrak)
• Updates from the Federal Railroad Administration, including on the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study (Melissa Hatcher, FRA)
• Plans for Chicago Union Station (Ray Lang, Amtrak) and Amtrak's Hiawatha service (Arun Rao, Wisconsin DOT)
• A spotlight on Florida's Brightline service (Russell "Rusty" Roberts, Brightline), including this video.
• An update on the Next Generation Equipment Committee (Bryan Ross, Missouri DOT)
• An update on new passenger coaches for Midwest service (John Oimoen, Illinois DOT)
MIPRC visits with Congress, FRA, Amtrak (2018)
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 Meeeting
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 visits Congress to promote Midwestern passenger rail (2017)
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.”
Webinar on the Future of Intercity Passenger Rail in the Midwest
MIPRC joined the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Alliance for Regional Development to host a Oct. 21, 2016 webinar for Midwestern metropolitan planning organizations on the status and future of intercity passenger rail in the region. Representatives of MPOS in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin got an overview of MIPRC and its activities, the pending regional rail planning project led by the Federal Railroad Administration, the Next Generation Equipment Committee and its work to set design standards for modern, high-speed locomotives and railcars, and a state-by-state rundown of current projects and plans. Listen to the webinar here, or download a PDF of the PowerPoint here.
MIPRC 2016 Annual Meeting
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.
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)