• News: The FRA Midwest Passenger Rail plan

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by Pensyfan19
Still missing a lot, but it's a good start. Mostly looks like an improvement of existing service, with the exception of Chicago to Omaha (originally part of the Quad Cities) and service to Columbus, OH and Nashville. Interesting to see Sioux Falls finally represented in one of these proposals, as well as service between Grand Rapids and Detroit. A lot of "redundant" main lines such as the Burlington Routes between Chicago and St. Paul and Chicago to Kansas City via Quincy have long been neglected in proposals such as these, but I suppose it's good to mention these ideas for consideration by the FRA [only to be delayed by political backlog]. I'm starting to wonder why there aren't more private companies like Brightline in some of these corridors (there's already a privately owned proposal on CNW trackage between Eau Clair and St. Paul) since I can see many of these being profitable. That's my say on this plan.
  by scratchyX1
Yeah, I see plenty of building opportunities, which could have higher speed rail serving.
  by Pensyfan19
I thought I saw this exact map somewhere before. (See Page 9) All the way back from the great year 2019... (which is also the year my account name is based on)

What's old is new again as something from the past is slightly modified to gain media attention, this time with even fewer lines proposed in the "final draft" (poor, poor Peoria!) with many regional and emerging lines being downgraded to small market or future corridor. This is why we need more companies to propose their own passenger service in the region so this way when the Government decides to delay and cut back on their rail proposals, someone else can fill the void and be more competitive to encourage the state and federal owned services to put in more effort.
  by roc
Whatever is decided vis-vis new and enhanced intercity passenger + commuter services, the key first step would be accelerating the completion of CREATE projects, for example. More and new attract lots of public, media and, thereby, government interest. The gritty, disruptive business of grade separation, trenching, etc is the foundation.

Think the Rohr Turboliners of yore and why they failed.
  by Matt Johnson
roc wrote: Thu Oct 14, 2021 2:48 pm
Think the Rohr Turboliners of yore and why they failed.
Or the 110 mph photo ops on the Dwight - Pontiac section of the Illinois line before that was downgraded back to 79 mph. (Most of the route is finally up to 90 mph, six years or more after 110 mph service was supposed to start.)
  by Bob Roberts
I know this is just a high-level overview but I was surprised not to find any mention of Des Moines other than the maps. I am guessing the Des Moines stop will continue to be 40 miles south of town in Osceola (as with the Zephyr)? Is the Iowa Interstate a viable option? I am completely unfamiliar with this part of the world. Seems like the II would be a better option for Omaha as well.
Last edited by Bob Roberts on Fri Oct 15, 2021 11:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by markhb
Bob Roberts wrote: Fri Oct 15, 2021 10:37 am I know this is just a high-level overview but I was surprised not to find any mention of Des Moines. I am guessing the Des Moines stop will continue to be 40 miles south of town in Osceola (as with the Zephyr)? Is the Iowa Interstate a viable option? I am completely unfamiliar with this part of the world. Seems like the II would be a better option for Omaha as well.
It's there; it would be an extension of the planned Quad Cities service (which is labeled as "Emerging"). Page 59 of the PDF (US Gov image, therefore public domain):
Midwest Regional Rail Plan Map.png
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  by Arborwayfan
I'm glad the proposal includes some routes that don't go through Chicago. The region they're looking at is big enough that maybe the trains should not all be spokes from one hub. I would like to see a St. Louis-Indy-Columbus-Pittsburgh route at least considered. Maybe a network of grade-separated 160 mph trains on one- or two-hour headways would make it faster to go from Indy to Chicago to St. Louis than to go straight from Indy to St. Louis on a conventional train, but it would be unlikely to make it faster to go Indy-Chicago-Columbus/Pittsburgh than to go straight from Indy to Columbus or Pittsburgh. There's a line of big cities along I-70, a couple hundred miles (or more than a Netherlands) south of Chicago; connect 'em.
  by electricron
Maps look cool with future potential train corridors marked on the map with different colors.
The what ifs look promising.
But implementation woes from the final 3rd meeting with the various States are listed starting on page 19.
"Step 4: Develop Findings, Conclusions & Recommendations
The governance task for the MWRRP focused on verifying what’s working in terms of the existing governance structure, identifying any existing gaps, and understanding the state’s priorities in terms of advancing and elevating its existing governance structure. This section summarizes the FRA’s findings and makes recommendations on how to advance projects in the Midwest in a manner that is consistent with the outcomes of the MWRRP.
Finding #1: The Midwest is unique in that it already has an established governance structure, MIPRC. Unlike other regions where FRA is conducting similar studies, the Midwest is unique in that it has an established governance structure, which required a different focus than other, similar studies.
Finding #2: MIPRC is an effective organization and there is strong support among the Midwest states for the continuation of this governing body. MIPRC will be used as a governance structure to advance the outcomes of the MWRRP and other regional-level planning studies. It is a priority of the Midwest states to expand MIPRC’s relevancy, but doing so must be balanced with protecting the sovereignty and individual interests of the states.
There is also a clear desire from the Midwest states to increase federal support of MIPRC, and the Midwest states requested FRA to work closely with MIPRC in the future to identify ways to include MIPRC at the federal level and to elevate MIPRC’s profile. MIPRC will play a role the phased network development that is an outcome of the MWRRP, and MIPRC will continue to examine ways to expand its ability to represent nonmember interests.
Finding #3: The lack of a predictable funding stream results in reduced incentives for states to work together beyond the existing governance framework. However if funding does become available, the states will need to be prepared immediately. This necessitates a need for them to address the many governance issues related to developing and delivering a complex rail program across state lines now.
Finding #4: Additional governance frameworks beyond MIPRC will be required to address the complex issues of delivering a major corridor improvement program, and the more robust the governance structure, the more competitive the program of projects will be. Future governance structures will need to address complex issues such as assignments of roles and responsibilities, approaches to complex cost allocation issues, particularly in situations where the benefits of investment are disproportionately distributed across a corridor, and a number of other issues.
In conclusion, the implementation of a regional rail plan requires extensive coordination among the participating states and various other involved stakeholders. While MIPRC has served and will continue to serve the Midwest states as a means to advocate for and advance passenger rail programs that are the outcome of the MWRRP, future governance bodies in the Midwest will be required to address a myriad of highly complex issues related to planning and implementation efforts, costs, benefits, funding, prioritized infrastructure investments, service operations, and system maintenance, while taking into consideration each state’s regulatory, financial, political, and institutional requirements as well as host and operating railroads’ policies and perspectives. FRA will continue to work closely with MIPRC and the Midwest states to advance and elevate MIPRC as a governance structure with the clear authority, responsibility, and mandate for overseeing and implementing the outcomes of the Midwest’s regional planning initiative in order to facilitate the coordination and implementation of rail improvement projects across multiple jurisdictions."

What that means>>>The proposed future rail map can not be built without a future, unknown regulating body with $Billions in its pocketbook, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Panama Canal Commission, etc. :wink: Good luck finding it.

And as usual with other passenger railroad studies; individual, regional, or national, people initially look at the maps of what the study suggests could be, and start dreaming what they would build instead. Like spoiled brats in a toy or candy store, wanting everything without a care in the world. No one actually takes the time to read the study to its conclusion, and no one reacts to the roadblocks and difficulties that need to be overcome. Why even the FRA called this plan ambitious? What a shame. :(
  by Arborwayfan
I kind of resent being called a spoiled brat, electricron. I don't think having hypothetical discussions about almost hypothetical maps for passenger train service and suggesting that this or that would also be good, without getting lost in the tangled affairs of state-federal funding mechanisms that might or might not work, is spoiled.

Yes, we should read the studies. Fine. Here's my reaction to the various governance and funding issues in the report:
we already have a federal government and the federal government already has a national passenger rail company and my preferred solution is to have the federal government's national passenger rail company handle passenger rail in a coherent national system. And a coherent national system wouldn't have just one east-west route in an area you could drop the whole country where railroads were invented into. We have interstate highways because the feds planned them out and the fed provide most of the money. And partly because of that, it is probably impossible for ticket revenues to fund our passenger trains. I do not think it is being spoiled to want passenger train service that any other rich country except Canada could only achieve by abandoning many lines and greatly reducing frequencies on some of the remaining ones.
  by njtmnrrbuff
It's great that CHI-STL is up to 90 mph right now but I do want to see consistent 110 mph running, especially between Joliet and Alton-lots of straight track between those two towns. I look forward to seeing the Springfield Station relocated to a right of way that won't involve having to negotiate all of those grade crossings in the heart of the downtown area.

Having a true corridor running from CHI-MSP would be great. It's not sufficient enough to just have the Hiawathas running between CHI-MKE-this is 90 miles. It's fine to have some but in general, it would be great to have more trains runnng CHI-MSP(select ones could travel by way of the existing Empire Builder route while the other ones could serve Madison, WI). Extend certain Hiawatha trains up to Green Bay as well.
  by Pensyfan19
Once again, where is the discussion for private investment? Companies like Brightline would be able to fly through these projects without the political woes of uncertain state funding. Had Brightline been owned by the state (and its exact route was planned by the DOT since the 1990s), it would still be on the shelf in the planning stage as we speak. Brightline (formerly All Aboard Florida) was formed in 2012 and started operations only six years later. A private carrier in one of the most underdeveloped and profitable regions could cause the state governments to take rail transport seriously after being shown how their service quality would come nowhere close to that offered by the private sector.