- Midwest Regional Rail Initiative
The Midwest Regional Rail Initiative or Midwest Regional Rail System (MRRI, MWRRI, or MWRRS) is a plan to implement a
high-speed railnetwork in the Midwestern United States, using Chicagoas a hub and including convert|3000|mi|km|sigfig=1 of track. Primary routes would stretch across Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, possibly reaching Kentucky. Secondary routes would operate at a somewhat slower speed across Missouriand Iowa, just touching Nebraskaand nearly reaching Kansas. Existing Amtrakroutes would probably be upgraded as part of this plan, which has been in development since 1996. However, funding remains a problem, and it is unclear when construction might begin.
Trains would travel at about convert|110|mph|km/h on the primary routes, but convert|80|to|90|mph|km/h on secondary lines. Existing trains run at speeds of about convert|55|to|80|mph|km/h. Raising the speed would significantly reduce trip times. A trip between Milwaukee and Chicago would be reduced from about 90 minutes to just over an hour. The trip from the Twin Cities to Chicago would drop from 8 hours to 5½ hours. Travelers between Chicago and Cincinnati would see the biggest gains, cutting travel time in half to just 4 hours.
If implemented, planners would expect 13.6 million annual riders by the year 2025. The frequency of train trips would also be increased: areas that currently only see one train in each direction every day would be upgraded to four or six trips each way.
In addition to providing better connections between Midwestern cities, another goal of the project would be to reduce or eliminate the subsidies that American passenger train routes currently require. The total investment required for the system, paying for
infrastructureas well as rolling stock, is estimated at $7.7 billion in 2002 dollars. $1.1 billion of that would go toward purchasing 63 new trainsets. Current plans call for phased construction taking about a decade.
Some construction has begun in Illinois and Michigan, primarily as testbeds for the upgraded signaling and control systems required for higher speed operation. In Michigan, this work has already resulted in increased service speeds for Amtrak's Wolverine service. However, similar work on the Chicago – Saint Louis line in Illinois has been met with considerable technical difficulties.
Some of the rail initiatives plans are already being realized. With the upgrading of track on the wolverine and Illinois Service lines some of the goals are already being met. The sections of track that have been upgraded now allow speeds of 110 miles per hour, the goal of the initiative. Some other progress is the extra services on existing routes. The Illinois routes have all had service expansions, St. Louis to Chicago being the greatest with 2 more round trips per day. The initiative eventually wants to run 9 round trips between the cities per day. Currently there are 5 round trips per day. The other 4 round trips may be added in the future when the current increased train service proves insufficiant to handle the loads. The ridership on the trains has been on a steady and moderate increase for the last serveral years and it is likely that in the next five years many of the illinois services will have to be expanded again. Adding to the fact that when upgrades are made, it is very probable that ridership will skyrocket as the speeds are increased. Some of the services that are under the study portion of the initiative are now being seriously considered. The section to the Quad Cities will likely be running by 2010 with Amtraks planned new service to Iowa City. This route will run 2 round trips per day. Another route is the Chicago to Rockford route which will be realized when Amtrak reinstates its Black Hawk service to Dubuque Iowa in 2009. The service to Madison Wisconsin is now very likely as the tracks are being upgraded from Milwaukee. As more and more people begin to support the initiative more and more services are becoming realities. The initiative is finaly beginning to be realized.
* [http://www.dot.state.mn.us/passengerrail/onepagers/midwest.html Mn/DOT: Midwest Regional Rail Initiative]
* [http://www.dot.state.wi.us/projects/state/docs/railmidwest.pdf WisDOT: Midwest Regional Rail System Executive Report, September 2004]
* [http://www.dot.state.oh.us/ohiorail/Ohio%20Hub/Website/ordc/index.html ODOT/ORDC: The Ohio Hub]
* [http://www.midwesthsr.org/pdfs/raildevplan07suppfinal.pdf Phase I - Illinois Fast Track]
* [http://www.midwesthsr.org/ Midwest High Speed Rail Association]
* [http://www.indianahighspeedrail.org/ Indiana High Speed Rail Association]
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