The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission — an interstate compact commission of Midwestern state legislators, governors and their designees — believes that preservation and expansion of our existing passenger rail system is essential. Advocating for improvements to passenger rail in the Midwest is at the heart of MIPRC's purpose.
Midwestern states have developed two complementary plans, the Midwest Regional Rail System (MWRRS) and the Ohio Hub, to significantly improve passenger rail in the Midwest and link the region to the improvements being planned in the Northeast. These plans are not just paper dreams - they are the result of years of planning, and significant investment by the states. Additionally, states are also engaged in other passenger rail projects that will increase the number of people served by passenger rail.
But they need political will and funding at the federal level to become a reality. Passenger rail is a critical component of a modern, multi-modal transportation system — and needs to have financial support, unified policy development and oversight similar to that afforded to our air, highway and mass-transit modes.
MIPRC Key Advocacy Points
1. Passenger rail should be an integral component of the Midwest’s transportation system. Studies show that each dollar spent on passenger rail in our region is expected to provide a social benefit of up to two dollars. Additionally, most of the Midwestern states continue to support the improvement and expansion of passenger rail in our region;
2. We strongly support the build-out of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) and the Ohio Hub. Our states have been working together for over a dozen years on these complementary, multi-state plans for significantly improving passenger rail service. At a cost of under $20 billion, a strong, efficient network of 15 corridors, with multiple daily frequencies, and new trainsets running at speeds up to 110 mph can be brought to the Midwest. The build-out of the MWRRI and Ohio Hub will bring over $30 billion in economic benefit to the region, while creating an average of more than 20,000 jobs annually during construction and approximately 75,000 permanent new jobs. In addition, CREATE (Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program) is a project of national economic significance that will reduce congestion on Amtrak routes serving the entire Midwest.
2. The Midwest’s plans still need significant funding. The initial announcement of more than $3 billion awarded to our region made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and FY 2009 and 2010 federal appropriations was very welcomed news by Midwest states. But our region applied for more than $12 billion in grants through the two rounds of federal funding made available to the states for passenger rail capital improvements;
3. Passenger rail must be considered an integral component of the country’s transportation system. This reality should be reflected within federal surface transportation reauthorization legislation;
4. Future federal public policies should guarantee that appropriate funding will be available so states will be willing to support such initiatives. A dedicated source of reliable and predictable future funds is key to the development of passenger rail;
5. If passenger rail is treated equitably among all transportation modes, it will thrive as an integral part of our nation’s multi-modal transportation system. The current state of passenger rail in this country should not be used as an argument against the development of passenger rail for our region. Past public policies and lack of federal investment almost eliminated the ability of passenger rail to survive, let alone expand;
6. Rail can play a vital role in meeting energy and environmental policies and objectives. Clean transportation solutions are an essential part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Additional investments in clean transportation infrastructure, including rail, would create jobs, cut transportation costs for consumers, and help meet our nation’s energy and climate goals;
7. It is important that Congress sends the message that investments in infrastructure should be a priority, and that passenger rail is an integral part of this infrastructure. We urge Congress to approve funding for the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) and Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) programs within the current year transportation appropriations. Once dedicated funds are approved, the year-to-year negotiations will no longer be necessary;
8. Operating costs for corridor service should not be considered solely a state responsibility, especially as service on new corridors develops and matures. We support a change in PRIIA and other passenger rail-related legislation going forward to allow states flexibility to use federal funds to offset operating expenses;
9. Funding/awards for passenger rail capital improvements should be speed neutral. Projects should be evaluated based on its merits regardless of predicted speed;
10. US Code 49, chapter 261 should be amended to create a “State/Multistate Planning and Research Program” within Section 301 of PRIIA. It is important that the practice of state and multistate intercity passenger rail planning include annual, dedicated funding to appropriately advance state and regional planning and construction efforts;
11. Higher speed passenger rail service can be advanced without compromising the vital present and future role of the freight rail industry. Freight railroads currently provide the majority of the right of way and infrastructure necessary to accommodate more than 315 Amtrak passenger trains per day over 43 routes. This movement of rail passengers takes place over the same network that nearly every sector of the economy relies on to move its products. MIPRC supports early and continued state collaboration with freight railroads on proposed passenger rail projects and efforts to maintain existing, and protect future, freight operations.
Click on the links below to learn more about the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, the Ohio Hub, Amtrak and what is happening at the federal level:
The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative
The Ohio Hub