In 1995 and 1996, state legislators across the region wanted to do something to further the development of high speed rail in the region. They asked the Midwestern Legislative Conference for help. The MLC formed a task force of interested legislators, who first met in December of 1996. Over the course of time and many discussions, amongst themselves and with federal, other state, and local officials, members of the private sector and advocacy groups, the task force decided that a compact among the Midwestern states was the best way for state elected officials to help spur better passenger rail service in the region. The Compact language was developed during 1998 and 1999, and first introduced in 2000.
In 1996, the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin, in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak, began to evaluate the potential role of high-speed rail in the Midwest. The resulting Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) and its steering committee – comprised of the state representatives and Amtrak – was developed to provide organizational structure. The steering committee supplied oversight and direction to a consultant team which started researching the viability of an enhanced Midwest rail system. Out of these studies, a vision emerged for developing an integrated Chicago Hub regional rail system.
Over the past decade, states have invested in additional frequencies to Chicago and saw ridership skyrocket and more people riding on trains across the Midwest than ever before. Ridership increased between Chicago and Milwaukee 57% between 2004 and 2008, and a whopping 208%between Chicago and St. Louis during the same time period.
On April 16, 2009, President Obama announced his “Vision for High Speed Rail”. This vision includes the development of high-speed train lines in at least 10 regions across the country, including the Midwest with a major hub network centered in Chicago. To “jump start” the implementation of high-speed and intercity passenger rail, $8 billion has been included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.
In July 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was joined by Senator Richard Durbin and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley to host Midwest Governors and rail executives at the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit in Chicago.
The Governors and Mayor Daley announced an agreement between the eight states and the City of Chicago to work cooperatively to achieve funding from (ARRA) to develop the Midwest network. Eight Midwest states signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in support of high-speed rail including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Mayor Daley also signed the MOU on behalf of the City of Chicago. Participant states agree upon, support and understand the importance of a nationwide network including a Chicago Hub that would connect trains traveling up to 110 miles per hour serving cities across the region, along with connections to adjoining regional corridors.
The MOU also created the Midwest High-Speed Rail Steering Group, to which each MOU signatory appointed one senior-level official as a voting representative to the group.
The efforts of the Midwest States proved successful as the FRA awarded $2.6 billion in ARRA funding, more than any other region. The awards included funding on all three priority lines from Chicago (Milwaukee-Madison, St. Louis, and Detroit), as well as funding for the “3-C” Corridor in Ohio connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati.
In the FY2010, Congress authorized an additional $2.5 billion for high-speed rail funding, an even greater investment than what was promised by the Obama Administration. Midwest states submitted many projects for consideration, and should hear the results of their applications by October 1st.