Speak Up: Long-Distance Passenger Rail Expansion for Missouri

By Jackson Hotaling

February 29, 2024

The Federal Railroad Administration [FRA] released its vision for expanding Amtrak's long-distance routes, and the proposed updates would double existing long-distance passenger train service. Three of the newly proposed route options directly pass through Missouri—read on to learn more about how to advocate for passenger rail expansion for Missourians.

FRA Long-Distance Service Study: Regional Working Group Meeting 3 [p.53]

Proposed Long-Distance Passenger Train Routes

The Federal Railroad Administration [FRA] is seeking feedback on the FRA Long-Distance Service Study, which proposes a bold expansion of passenger rail options throughout the United States. According to the study document [p.31], the study is legislatively mandated to follow these guidelines:

  1. Large and Small Communities: Identify metropolitan area travel flows not served by existing passenger rail network
  2. Focus on Rural: Identify rural and disadvantaged communities not served by existing passenger rail network
  3. Enhance Connectivity: Identify gaps in the passenger rail network, and reflect regional plans for passenger rail service
  4. Reflect Public Engagement: Check that Enhanced Network reflects stakeholder and public inputs

The deadline for public comments for the current proposal is March 8th. Submit your feedback to the FRA via the email address (contactus@fralongdistancerailstudy.org) or via their comment form. Read on to learn how to advocate effectively for Missouri's proposed routes.

What Missouri Passenger Rail Routes are being Considered?

Three of the fifteen new passenger routes in the proposal pass through Missouri. Each route provides various benefits for rural Missourians, as well as travelers that will be able to access more opportunities throughout our state. Missouri's two existing long-distance routes—the Southwest Chief through northern Missouri and the Texas Eagle through southeastern Missouri—are so successful that towns along the route without stations (such as De Soto and Carrollton) are advancing their own funds to develop stations in efforts to bring passenger rail service to their rural communities. Additional service will bring transportation options and further connectivity to rural communities across our state, as well as new service to Missouri's third largest city, Springfield.

Here's how Missourians for Responsible Transportation believes each route could benefit Missourians:

Phoenix-Minneapolis St. Paul

  • Additional departures to Lawrence and Topeka will be crucial for the many travelers to Kansas City that use the parallel highways daily.
  • There are minimal bus options to Omaha, so a direct train link will reestablish a more interconnected Great Plains, which now is predominantly a regional transportation desert.
  • Connections from Missouri to a newly-served state by Amtrak—South Dakota—will provide more access for transportation-insecure South Dakotans to more destinations.
  • The opportunity for a station in St. Joseph—Missouri’s six-largest city—will be huge for both travelers from there to both Kansas City and Omaha. MoDOT also received FRA funding to study a link from Kansas City to St. Joseph, so this link will provide additional justification for the advancement of that local study.
  • Kansas City was identified in the existing study public comments as an important regional Amtrak hub.

Dallas/Forth Worth-New York

  • The station location for Springfield would restore passenger train service to Missouri's third largest city, which has a Metropolitan Statistical Area of 475,432 and is Missouri's fastest-growing metropolitan area.
  • We believe Joplin and Rolla will be strong candidates as well for stations. Joplin is working to restore their historic rail depot, so an Amtrak station at this depot would revitalize that area of Joplin.
  • Joplin also received federal funding to study the establishment of a regional transportation network, so a rail connection will be an important connection for the region at large.
  • MoDOT conducted an existing passenger rail study in 2007 along a portion of this route that deemed that state-supported passenger rail would be a challenge, but if Amtrak long distance route was established, work will be done to support to encourage MoDOT to develop a state-run train.
  • MoDOT is developing studies to spend billions of our tax dollars to widen Interstate 44. If a parallel passenger train network was established, drivers will have other transportation options for traveling along this corridor.
  • Eastern connections through Central Illinois will be critical for both Missouri and Illinois travelers.
  • St. Louis was identified in the existing study public comments as an important regional Amtrak hub.

San Antonio-Minneapolis/St. Paul

  • A connection from Kansas City to Des Moines will be very important, with minimal other north-south connections served by transit through Missouri.
  • There is opportunity for several stations in rural Missouri that haven’t had passenger rail for decades, including the regionally-populous communities of Richmond and Chillicothe.
  • Kansas City was identified in the existing study public comments as an important regional Amtrak hub.

How Can I Advocate for Better Missouri Passenger Rail Options?

In a blog post about the FRA proposal, the Rail Passengers Association provides some guidance on how to advocate for passenger rail advancement with this proposal:

You have until March 8th to review the materials and then draft and submit your feedback to the study team using the email address contactus@fralongdistancerailstudy.org. Remember, constructive, fact-based, specific observations and suggestions are the way to go here. Some 5,000 comments have been reviewed to date, and comments truly did help shape the final routings selected by the FRA team.

"The Round Three LD Map is Out!," Rail Passengers Association

This is an important opportunity to advocate for increased rural transportation access across Missouri. Please make your voice heard and let the FRA know that Missouri deserves access to safe, affordable transportation options!


Review our public comments below

mrt@movingmissouri.org
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