MIPRC applies for $5 million CRISI planning grant to advance Midwest Regional Rail Plan
MIPRC on December 1 submitted an application to the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for a $5 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) planning grant to further develop the Midwest Regional Rail Plan.
Amtrak has committed to providing half of the grant’s proposed non-federal match, while MIPRC and its member states will provide the other half.
This is the first time the Commission has applied for a federal grant as a primary applicant.
If selected by the FRA, the grant will fund “Invest Midwest” – a further refinement and expansion of the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Plan of 2021, which set forth a strategic 40-year vision for the Midwest’s passenger rail network.
As the application’s project summary notes, the 2021 Midwest Regional Rail Plan is considered “a high-level conceptual plan” that looks at the Midwest as a whole to project which passenger rail corridors show the most long-term potential for increased service and ridership across a regional network.
It does not, however, comment on details like the order of corridor development, how corridors should be developed or expanded, nor the construction projects and rolling stock needs that would be required to develop them. So refinement via Invest Midwest is needed to identify:
• Potential additional corridors.
• Potential ridership and revenue for each corridor, economic and geographic equity opportunities, and rolling stock inventory and needs.
• Short-, medium-, and long-term projects within corridors, inclusive of sequencing requirements, to yield full passenger rail service levels as part of a comprehensive network.
• A phasing strategy for corridors across the Midwest, complementing the new FRA Corridor Identification and Development Program.
MIPRC seeks to continue these planning efforts in close coordination with the FRA, Midwestern states, Amtrak, communities across the region and host railroads to develop a long-term plan for a Midwestern network that, as a whole, complements the Corridor Identification and Development Program and provides safe, reliable, and more frequent service, new connections to rural and urban markets, and reduced travel times between communities.
The requested $5 million CRISI grant requires a 20 percent, or $1 million, non-federal match. Amtrak agreed to cover $500,000 of that with the balance to be covered by MIPRC and its member states largely via increased membership dues beginning in fiscal year 2024.
“With this application, MIRPC takes a big step forward toward becoming the regional governance authority envisioned by the Midwest Regional Rail Plan,” said MIPRC Chair Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn, who is her chamber’s appointed commissioner. “We are pleased to have Amtrak’s financial partnership, and using our dues structure to help cover the match shows the states are willing participants in a cooperative regional planning process that will benefit all Midwestern residents.”
The grant application was developed by MIPRC partner Quandel Consultants, in conjunction with MIPRC staff and a subcommittee of MIPRC commissioners and DOT representatives who had been working on the project concept since MIPRC’s 2021 annual meeting. MIPRC commissioners in January had approved Quandel to assist the commission with developing the application. MIPRC Director Laura Kliewer and Tim Hoeffner, senior consultant with Quandel, provided an overview of the application at MIPRC’s 2022 Annual Meeting.
While this was MIPRC’s first application for federal funding, it won’t be the last – a “Notice of Funding Opportunity” for the FRA’s new Interstate Rail Compacts grant program authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is expected to be released in 2023.
In addition to Amtrak’s commitment letter and MIPRC member state DOTs’ letters of support, MIPRC has also received a number of letters of support from entities across the Midwest, including Midwestern Members of Congress, governors, other departments of transportation, counties, universities, metropolitan planning organizations, unions and advocacy organizations. Those that MIPRC received by Nov. 30 were included in the grant submission. A list of those who have let MIPRC know they had submitted letters of support as of Dec. 9, 2022, can be found here.
MIPRC welcomes additional letters of support at any time; please let us know if you would like to send a letter by emailing Laura Kliewer, MIPRC’s director, at lkliewerATmiprc.org.