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)