JEFFERSON CITY - Improved rail service may be in Missouri's future. The Missouri Department of Transportation is poised to go after $9 billion in stimulus money and other federal funds announced yesterday by the Obama administration for the creation of 10 high-speed rail corridors across the nation.
The Kansas City to St. Louis corridor would be eligible for this funding as a part of the Chicago hub network, which would link the cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.
"This is a turning point in improved passenger rail service, not only for Missouri but across the United States," said Brian Weiler, MoDOT's Multimodal Operations Director. "Missourians want and deserve a more reliable and faster rail service. Bringing some of these federal funds to Missouri would be the down payment we need to enhance both passenger and freight movement."
The type of high-speed rail project Missouri plans to develop is one that would make the train service on the existing Union Pacific line faster over time. These improvements will be done incrementally as funding becomes available and planning and design work in cooperation with Union Pacific is completed.
MoDOT may have an advantage in the competitive grant process. Missouri is a part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. Since 1996, this group of nine Departments of transportation has worked to plan and implement a 3,000-mile high-speed rail system with Chicago as the hub.
"The Chicago hub network is consistent with the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative's planning effort going on for nearly a decade," Weiler said. "Any funding we may receive will help kick start the first of several improvements needed to bring high-speed rail to this region."
MoDOT also commissioned a study by the University of Missouri's Engineering School in 2006 to determine where enhancements should be made to improve capacity and speed on the Union Pacific line. The study identified several projects that would improve the on time performance and reliability of both Amtrak and freight trains.
About three years ago, MoDOT, Union Pacific and Amtrak stepped up our efforts to improve this corridor and ensure its survival. Since then, Union Pacific has completed a $26 million project adding double track to the Gasconade River Bridge. MoDOT, Union Pacific and Amtrak will break ground on a new rail siding at California, Mo. on April 27. A rail siding is an extra track that runs parallel to a main rail line where trains can pass each other without stopping.
MoDOT is waiting on the Federal Railroad Administration to prepare guidelines for the program and publish the application process. MoDOT's wish list includes completion of new sidings near Knob Noster and Strasburg, double tracking of the Osage River Bridge and increasing train speeds in certain sections along the corridor. The application process is expected to be published in June with some funds being awarded later this summer.
For more information about the Missouri Freight and Passenger Rail Capacity Analysis, go to www.morail.org.
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