FRA’s analysis ”demonstrated that the strongest corridors for prioritized development connect to Chicago,” the report concluded. “The strength of Chicago’s rail hub cannot be ignored.”
The report suggests four “pillar corridors” that ought to be the priority for investment: Chicago to Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Detroit.
All four have received substantial upgrades in recent years, such as adding a second daily train from Chicago to the Twin Cities. But much more may be on the way if Congress approves President Joe Biden’s pending $1 trillion infrastructure plan.
“If the stakeholder states individually and collectively decided to advance an intercity passenger rail network with a greater emphasis on higher-speed lines, there could be a case to build even more of the corridors at the Regional/Core Express level,” the report says. “Furthermore, if an interregional passenger rail Midwest Regional Rail Plan III study were completed in the future including the Midwest (e.g., connecting the Midwest and Southeast or the Midwest and Northeast), there may be significant enough ridership between some interregional markets to justify core express service over Regional service on some corridors.”
The report does not envision the long-distance high-speed connections that some rail fans want, i.e., 200-plus mph service to New York City. Instead, it focuses on incremental changes carefully negotiated with Midwest states, with speeds topping out at 110 mph.
An Amtrak spokesman said the plans released by the two agencies are “complimentary.”