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MIPRC annual meeting spotlights regional connections
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MIPRC annual meeting spotlights regional connections

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission’s annual meeting came to Wichita, Kansas, for 2017; perhaps an odd choice if you consider only that the city – 50th largest in the country, 10th largest in the Midwest, whose population exceeds Cleveland, Ohio – doesn’t currently have passenger rail service.

But MIPRC’s presence there on Oct. 9-11, and its emphasis on the importance of the regional passenger rail network and regional connectivity, may help change that. The meeting drew interest from local media (see here, here and here), especially for presentations on the effort to extend Amtrak’s state-supported Heartland Flyer  (Fort Worth, Texas-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) north to Wichita and Newton, Kansas, where it would meet the long-distance Southwest Chief  (Chicago-Los Angeles).

MIPRC commissioners, partners, sponsors and allies were also given a tour of Wichita’s century-old Union Station (above), hosted by Occidental Management, whose imminent restoration of the building – part of a larger, phased $54 million project to renovate the station and immediate vicinity – will include room for an Amtrak stop if (when) passenger service is restored.

MIPRC commissioners, partners, sponsors and allies met at the Hotel at Old Town to review the past year’s activities and plan for 2018. Presentations included:

Updates from member states on their passenger rail activities
• An update/outlook for passenger rail at the federal level from Amtrak
• Updates on federal funding for passenger rail from the Federal Railroad Administration, and on the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study
Limitations of states in multi-state passenger rail development
• A spotlight on efforts to extend the Heartland Flyer (view “The Wichita Amtrak Arrival Train” video here)
• An overview of Amtrak’s long-distance passenger rail service in the Midwest.

Other topics included a general “MIPRC Year in Review,” an overview and discussion of MIPRC’s trip to Washington, D.C., on May 22-23, information on the Next Generation Equipment Committee, a report on MIPRC's Partners Program and commission business including final approval of the FY 2018 budget and election of new officers. The full meeting agenda can be seen here.

Beth McCluskey, director of the Office of Intermodal Project Implementation at the Illinois Department of Transportation, who represents Illinois as the governor’s designee, was elected as chair of MIPRC.

She replaces Tim Hoeffner, director of the Office of Rail at the Michigan Department of Transportation, who represents Michigan as the governor’s designee. Hoeffner stepped down as chair of MIPRC and was elected as vice chair, replacing Joan Bray, who represents Missouri as the governor’s designee.

Kansas state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, her chamber’s appointee to MIPRC, stepped down as the commission’s financial officer; she was replaced by Indiana Rep. Sharon Negele, her chamber’s appointee to MIPRC.

And a special thanks to meeting sponsors Occidental Management, the City of Wichita, the Northern Flyer Alliance, REAP of South Central Kansas, and WSP.

Commissioners also tentatively selected Lafayette, Ind., to host MIPRC’s annual meeting in 2018.

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