MIPRC Commissioners provided input on the interim guidance being developed by the FRA for distribution of the $8 billion in funding for passenger rail service provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The text of the June 5 letter follows:
Re: Federal Docket FRA–2009–0045 – Capital Assistance for High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service: Public Input on Recovery Act Guidance to Applicants (submitted via www.regulations.gov)
Dear Administrator Szabo,
On behalf of our states, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) is pleased to give input into the interim guidance being developed for distribution of the $8 billion in funding for passenger rail service provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Midwest has two multi-state projects – the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative and the Ohio Hub – that the states have cooperatively planned for over a dozen years, waiting for a federal partnership to substantively move forward. All of the nine Midwestern states have committed significant time and funding for the plans’ development. A few states have been able to commit additional funds to begin track, signaling and other work on certain routes.
As you finalize the interim guidance for awarding the $8 billion through the three programs created in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, we ask that this guidance:
1. give priority to state/regional passenger rail projects based on longevity of plan development;
2. consider the long-term economic benefits of regional system development;
3. emphasize corridor development that has regional/multistate significance, benefits, and state and regional stakeholder support;
4. include eligibility for facilities, infrastructure and equipment, as indicated under Sections 301 and 501 of PRIAA;
5. give funding priority to both Section 301 and Section 501 eligible projects (while we understand that the ARRA directs the Secretary of Transportation to give priority to high speed rail projects, we ask that substantive ARRA funding also be directed to the intercity passenger rail program);
6. reiterate the strategic plan’s intention that projects to initiate NEPA and PE be eligible for funding under ARRA;
7. within the context of #1-6 above, we would also ask that funding provided by the ARRA go to multiple Midwestern states, rather than one or two larger projects.
We as a commission, along with all of our compact states – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin – look forward to a positive and productive relationship with the Federal Railroad Administration. Please let MIPRC’s director, Laura Kliewer, know how we can be of assistance.