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MIPRC annual meeting reviews a busy 2018, looks ahead to a busier 2019
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MIPRC annual meeting reviews a busy 2018, looks ahead to a busier 2019

The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission’s 2018 annual meeting convened in Milwaukee on October 3-5 to review developments since the 2017 annual meeting and lay the groundwork for what promises to be a busy 2019.

MIPRC welcomed new commissioners from Illinois and Missouri, along with new partners and allies. Overall, 54 people attended the meeting, which began at Chicago’s Union Station with a presentation on and tour of renovation work there, an overview of the state-sponsored Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha service, and a 90-minute ride on the Hiawatha to Milwaukee’s Intermodal Station.

Hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in its offices at the station, MIPRC’s agenda included a recap of the previous year by Director Laura Kliewer, a review of MIPRC’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., on May 23-24, and presentations on:

· Member states’ passenger rail developments;
· Updates from the Federal Railroad Administration, including on the FRA-led Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study, and from Amtrak;
· Updates on the Next Generation Equipment Committee and the new locomotives and coach cars for Amtrak Midwest service; and
· Brightline’s passenger rail service in Florida and future plans, along with potential lessons for similar, potential corridor services in the Midwest. (Brightline's presentation included a new promotional video, which can be seen here and seems to hint at interest in the Chicago-St. Louis corridor.)

Participants toured the Milwaukee Intermodal Station – which was built in 1965, given a $16.9 million renovation in the mid-2000s and a new $22 million passenger concourse in 2015-16 – and the private railcar Caritas.

They also toured the nearby maintenance facility for Milwaukee’s new streetcar system, The Hop, which is scheduled to begin service on November 2. Once it’s running, Amtrak passengers can use it to access the city’s Third Ward, East Town and Yankee Hill neighborhoods. A spur to the lakefront is scheduled to open in 2019.

At the meeting, commissioners gave final approval to MIPRC’s FY 2019 budget, discussed the commission’s priorities for 2019 and re-elected Beth McCluskey as MIPRC chair, Tim Hoeffner as vice chair and Indiana Rep. Sharon Negele as financial officer. (A full meeting agenda is here.)

McCluskey, who is director of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Office of Intermodal Project Implementation, is Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s designated representative to the Commission. Hoeffner, who is director of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s Office of Rail, is Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s designated representative to the Commission. Negele is her chamber’s appointee to the Commission.

Commissioners agreed to hold MIPRC’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., next fall, and shift the Commission’s annual visit to Congress from late spring to the fall annual meeting. This unusual step will be taken to amplify MIPRC’s voice and Midwestern passenger rail needs just as representatives and senators begin discussing re-authorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which is due for renewal in 2020.

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