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Midwestern states get big wins in federal Corridor ID & Development program's inaugural round
Jon Davis
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Midwestern states get big wins in federal Corridor ID & Development program's inaugural round

Midwestern passenger rail plans got a major boost in early December as the vast majority of corridors submitted by MIPRC member states and endorsed by MIPRC to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification & Development program were selected for its first round of funding.

For each chosen route, the project’s sponsor will work closely with the FRA and receive $500,000 in “seed money,” with no non-federal matching funds required, as well as receive preference in future rounds of the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program.

“The Corridor ID program will enable the initial planning for each of MIPRC’s member states to see new and improved routes, including increased frequencies of service, faster times and brand new station stops,” said Laura Kliewer, MIPRC director. “And the whole region will benefit as well, as new connections to previously unserved and underserved communities are realized, helping to knit the region together with new and better travel options.” 

In addition to two long distance routes – restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha (which follows the route of the existing Empire Builder service to Fargo, but then will go through the middle of North Dakota, including its capital, Bismarck, and Montana) and daily Cardinal service (currently 3 days/week, Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati-Washington, D.C.) – winning FY 22 Corridor ID program recipients from MIPRC member states include:

•    Chicago-Quad Cities (new service)
•    Chicago-Carbondale improvements (Illini/Saluki)
•    Chicago-St. Louis improvements (Lincoln Service)
•    Chicago-Peoria (new service)
•    Indianapolis-Chicago improvements
•    Indianapolis-Louisville expansion (new service)
•    Chicago-Ft. Wayne-Columbus-Pittsburgh (new service)
•    Heartland Flyer extension to Wichita and Newton, Kan.
•    Grand Rapids-Chicago improvements and additional frequencies (Pere Marquette)
•    Port Huron-Chicago improvements and additional frequencies (Blue Water)
•    Detroit-Chicago improvements and expansion to Windsor, Ont. (Wolverine)
•    Twin Cities-Duluth (Northern Lights Express – new service)
•    Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg (Chicago-Quincy) service extension to Hannibal, MO
•    Kansas City-St. Joseph expansion (new service)
•    Hiawatha additional frequencies (Milwaukee to Chicago)
•    Hiawatha extension from Milwaukee to Green Bay (new service)
•    Milwaukee-Madison-Eau Claire-Twin Cities (new service)
•    Eau Claire-Twin Cities (new service)
•    TCMC second frequency (to be the 3rd daily train between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago)

Also among the Midwest’s selected corridors was Ohio’s long-standing “3C+D” (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland + Dayton) plan, and a proposal for new Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit service, which was supported by Michigan’s Department of Transportation.

According to the FRA, the Corridor Identification and Development program will be the primary “incubator” for passenger rail expansion outside of the Northeast Corridor. Under the program, selected corridors will undergo a three-step collaborative process toward inclusion in the Federal-State Partnership grant program.

In the first step, the initial seed money pays for project sponsors to create a scope of work, schedule and budget for a service development plan.

The second step, which requires a 10 percent match, creates that service development plan, which will include an inventory of capital projects required in the corridor.

The third step, which requires a 20 percent match, is the preliminary engineering and National Environmental Policy Act clearance for the capital projects identified in Step Two.

Projects that clear all three steps may be prioritized for future Federal-State Partnership grant funding.

Additionally, two elements of the proposed Chicago Hub Improvement Program (CHIP) won a total of $93.6 million from the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program:

1.    Up to $49.6 million for final design/construction to reactivate for passenger use a high-level platform on the station’s south side that was once used for U.S. mail.
2.    Up to $44 million for project design to begin removing former baggage platforms, expand existing passenger platforms and improve both ventilation and passenger access to and from the station.

See our previous coverage of the Corridor Identification & Development program here and here.

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