Midwest Regional Rail Initiative


Nine Midwestern state DOT's have been working together since 1996 to develop a 3,000 mile high-speed rail system for the region.  When this plan is fully implemented, passenger rail service will be dramatically increased and trip times significantly decreased.  Chicago will serve as the hub of the system.   About 90 percent of the Midwest's population will be within a one hour car ride to a Midwest Regional Rail System station and/or 30 minutes of a feeder bus station.  

States have implemented the first phases of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) plan, through the first-ever state/federal funding partnership made possible through the enactment of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) and the subsequent development of the federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant program. Implementation continues through state planning and funding, and the continuation of federal funding for passenger rail projects made available through the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act while it was in effect during federal fiscal years 2016-2020.

Midwestern states applied for and won awards in almost every grant cycle during the life of the FAST Act. See our comprehensive list here.

As of Spring 2020, the Midwestern states had almost 30 intercity passenger rail projects, totalling more than $2 billion, ready for federal funding matches within the lifespan of the next surface transportation reauthorization. See the full list here.

The MWRRI steering committee was last able to update the region's plans in the fall of 2004. MIPRC and the MWRRI steering committee have proposed updating the Midwest's plans, and are working with the Federal Railroad Administration on a 40-year vision for the region, building off the planning and implementation of the MWRRI.

In 2004, the MWRRI steering committee completed a comprehensive update of the plan, including:

  1. Updated capital and equipment cost estimates;
  2. Updated and refined MWRRI feeder bus system recommendations;
  3. Updated MWRRI plan ridership and revenue forecasts;
  4. Updated operating cost estimates; and
  5. An updated operating plan and proposed schedules.

MIPRC developed a 4-page pamphlet on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative — highlighting the benefits of passenger rail to the region, what specific benefits the MWRRI will bring, and the critical need for a dedicated source of federal funding to see this project move forward. Please download a copy of the pamphlet and use it in advocating for the MWRRI!

In 2007, the MWRRI updated its economic analysis of the benefits that the fully implemented plan would bring to the region.  The new projections found a benefit-to-cost ratio of 1.8 ($1.80 in return for every dollar invested), one of the highest for any regional system in the U.S. In addition to generating $23 billion in overall benefits, the system would generate nearly 58,000 permanent new jobs and $5.3 billion of increased earnings over the construction period.

Economic Impacts of the Midwest Regional Rail System (2007)

State economic impact brochures (2007)


Other resources about the MWRRS:

    Midwest Regional Rail System report (September 2004)
    Midwest Regional Rail System:  A Transportation Network for the 21st Century (2000) 

Secretariat services provided by The Council Of State Governments' Midwestern Office.