Gov. Jay Nixon and the governors of seven other Midwestern states have joined in support of high-speed passenger rail projects to link cities in their region, with Chicago as the hub. The governors, along with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, have sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood asking him to support plans that have been in place for several years for key rail corridors between cities in their states, including St. Louis to Chicago.
The governors are seeking funding for the projects through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which specifically mandates funding for improving and deploying high-speed rail systems in the United States. The letter presents the case that the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, first conceived by Missouri and eight other states in the mid-1990s, has done the needed studies and preliminary work for projects that would provide increased mobility for travelers and promote regional and economic development goals.
"I believe Missouri and the other states in our region present a compelling and united case to the Obama Administration to fund these projects," Gov. Nixon said. "Our states have been working on this rail initiative for more than a decade, and we will aggressively compete for these Recovery Act funds specifically designated for high-speed rail projects."
The Phase I corridors would include Chicago-St. Louis, Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison and Chicago-Detroit-Pontiac. High-speed trains between those cities initially would travel at 110 miles per hour. Gov. Nixon noted that Illinois already has completed an environmental impact statement for the Chicago-St. Louis corridor. The letter states that with ARRA funds, projects in these corridors can be completed between 2012 and 2014. Preliminary engineering estimates indicate that the Phase I projects will require approximately $3.4 billion for track and operating equipment.
After initial phase projects would be completed, the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative calls for developing service along other routes, including St. Louis to Kansas City.
In addition to Mayor Daley, Gov. Nixon was joined in signing the letter to Secretary LaHood by Governors Pat Quinn of Illinois, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Ted Strickland of Ohio, and Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.
Earlier this year, Gov. Nixon appointed Frank Steeves as a representative from Missouri to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC). Steeves is general counsel for Emerson Electric Co., based in St. Louis.
The commission brings together state leaders from across the region to advocate for passenger rail improvements. Formed by compact agreement in 2000, the MIPRC's current members are Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.