Report on 2016 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission 9/28 & 9/29, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri
Steven L. Coxhead
The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC)
The MIPRC is a nine-state interstate compact commission that promotes, coordinates and supports regional improvements to passenger rail service. Member states include Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Ohio was originally a part of the commission, but has withdrawn. However, there were observers from Ohio present at the 2016 meeting. The Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance (IPRA) has participated as an “ally”, which gives it an observer status.
The delegation from Indiana consisted of the following individuals:
1. House Appointment – Representative Sharon Negele (R), District 13
2. Senate Appointment – Senator Phil Boots (R), District 23
3. Governor or Designee – Ms. Katherine England (INDOT), representing Governor’s Designee, Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson
4. Private Sector Governor Appointee – Mr. Fred Lanahan, Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association
5. IPRA – Mr. Steven Coxhead, President
MIPRC meets annually to provide the various state DOTs the opportunity to report on developments in their state, and to coordinate activities where necessary or useful. Reports are presented on projects undertaken by the Commission and tasks assigned to it by the Federal or state governments. Finally, the administrative business of the Commission (elections, budgets, etc.) is addressed.
This Year’s Highlights
Each state DOT presented a report on activity in their state. The Indiana report (presented by Katherine England, INDOT) included the Hoosier State project, the proposed Chicago – Fort Wayne corridor, and the South Shore commuter expansion in NW Indiana.
During the past ten years, ridership on Midwestern corridor routes has increased by 58 percent. During the same period, ridership on long-distance routes serving the Midwest increased by 14 percent.
In July, 2015, the Midwest was chosen – based on a statement of interest submitted by the MIPRC on behalf of the Midwest – as one of two regions that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will partner with to develop a long-term vision for a high-performance regional rail network. IPRA submitted a letter in support of the MIPRC submission.
A group of Midwestern states (sadly, not including Indiana) received $268 million to buy Next Generation rail cars and locomotives to modernize the Midwest’s fleet. The state/federal Next Generation Equipment Pool Committee developed standardized specifications for passenger rail equipment and helped initiate the first joint equipment purchases. Locomotives are being produced by Siemens, in California. The bi-level rail cars are being produced by Nippon Sharyo, in Illinois.
In December, 2015, Congress passed the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act. For the first time, intercity passenger rail and Amtrak reauthorization language are included as part of the comprehensive five-year transportation bill.
MIPRC conducted an online survey of students, faculty and staff at schools located along Amtrak routes (Purdue University included). The survey was conducted November 2015, and February 2016. Response from over 19,000 individuals suggest that passenger rail service is an important resource to attend school, and that they would be more likely to take the train if more frequent service were available. Details can be found atwww.miprc.org/news.
MIPRC submitted comments to the Surface Transportation Board regarding the definition of on-time performance (OTP) for passenger trains. The position assumed by MIPRC was that OTP should be defined so as to measure performance for intermediate station stops, as well as at the end points of a given route.
Attendees were given a tour of the Missouri River Runner service, and a discussion of Missouri’s Passenger Rail Advisory Committee (MORPAC).
The Illinois DOT (IDOT) presented a status report and overview of the ongoing project to upgrade the Chicago – St. Louis route to 110 mph service.
MIPRC and IPRA
The MIPRC appears to be the only multi-state, government to government, organization engaged in coordinating and planning the development of modern 21 Century passenger rail systems in the Midwestern region. It is an effective channel for Federal initiatives, and serves an important information clearing house role for the member state DOTs. As such, in cooperation with INDOT, it serves a useful purpose in facilitating the development of passenger rail systems in Indiana.
The IPRA Board believes it to be important and useful, to continue to be involved as a MIPRC allied organization at the organization’s annual meetings.