SIKESTON – Enhancing passenger rail service and improving freight rail access are among the top public recommendations included in a new draft State Rail Plan, intended to provide a 20-year strategic framework for passenger and freight rail development in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Transportation seeks the public’s feedback on the plan at meetings in April.
One meeting was held Wednesday, April 25, in Poplar Bluff. The other is being held today (Thursday) at Kirkwood.
For the benefit of folks in southern Missouri who are not likely to attend the meeting in person, the draft plan is available at http://www.morail.org/, where the online version of the public meeting is available. Public comments will be accepted until May 4.
“Missourians told us both freight and passenger rail provide numerous economic, environmental and transportation benefits to the state,” said Eric Curtit, state administrator of railroads. “They made it very clear increased access to both types of service is important to Missouri’s future.”
Draft recommendations also call for completion of projects designed to improve the reliability of the state-supported Amtrak Missouri River Runner service, with a longer-term goal of adding more trains and schedule options to the route. This service currently operates at 79 mph and with incremental improvements could travel as fast as 90 mph. The plan also proposes a staged approach to establishing dedicated high-speed passenger rail service (110 mph or higher) between St. Louis and Kansas City and setting priorities for new corridor developments, such as service to Springfield and Hannibal and feeder bus routes to Branson, Columbia and St. Joseph.
Proposals to maximize the economic benefits of freight rail in coordination with the Missouri Department of Economic Development are also included. As funding becomes available, the plan suggests identifying ways to encourage intermodal access at Missouri ports by increasing capacity of existing tracks, industrial spurs and sidings and by supporting the development of additional rail access where new industrial development opportunities exist.
The recommendations also include an array of policy proposals to better fund and encourage the continued development of Missouri’s rail system.
Amtrak, freight railroads operating in Missouri, shippers, economic and transportation agencies and citizens participated in community leader workshops and public meetings last fall.
“The ideas and guidance shared by individuals and organizations last fall led to the creation of a good plan,” said Kristi Jamison, state rail plan project manager. “Public input is just as important now as we finalize Missouri’s rail development strategies for the next two decades.”