The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released its Midwest Regional Rail Plan to expand intercity passenger rail in the Midwest over the next 40 years.
The FRA released the 198-page plan on Wednesday, which would create four "pillar" routes out of Chicago. The largest would be the Chicago-Minneapolis-St. Paul "core express" trains with 24 trips per day.
These pillar routes would then connect to regional transit routes across the Midwest and the rest of the country. The regional lines would have 16 trains per day.
Doing this would mark a major increase in service levels on passenger trains and would boost ridership to 17 million annual trips by 2055, the plan says.
The Chicago-Twin Cities route is the foundation of the FRA's Midwest plan. The plan says:
“Chicago remains the core driver of intercity ridership throughout the network, accounting for nearly 30% of all trips in 2055. Minneapolis-St. Paul is the second largest market, with over 11% of trips originating or ending there.”
The High Speed Rail Alliance says integrated plans like this make perfect sense for regions where standalone routes don't have enough passengers for standalone high-speed lines. The alliance gives the example of Indianapolis to Minneapolis, which doesn't have enough travelers for a standalone route but as part of this integrated system, it makes sense.
Investments in specific corridors "create ripple-out effects that improve service" throughout the region, the alliance says.
This plan is a "40-year multi-state framework and vision for restoring, modernizing and expanding the existing intercity passenger rail network in the Midwest." It comes after two years of work between the FRA, Amtrak and stakeholders, including the Midwest Interstate Rail Commission.
“For too long, passenger rail has been the forgotten mode, in the sense that it lacks the sustained funding stream afforded to other forms of transportation. The time has come to change that,” Deputy FRA Administrator Amit Bose said on Wednesday, according to Trains. “The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act pending before Congress represents the largest investment in intercity rail since the founding of Amtrak.”
The Midwest plan is the third FRA regional study. It previously released similar rail plans for the Southeast and Southwest United States.
The High Speed Rail Alliance says that once these elements are in place, much of the country will be connected via a network of passenger trains.
You can read the full plan here.