AANW Hotline Sept 2022 - Updates & Tidbits
Thanks for your interest in All Aboard Northwest, the Greater Northwest regional coordination organization. We send out these “Updates and Tidbits” Hotlines occasionally. We hope you find the information useful.
We’ve included you on this list because we’ve worked with you previously, because you participated in the inaugural Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit, or because you have been referred by one of our partner organizations. You can change and update your email preferences below.
In this issue, we’ll bring you up to date on the studies to be conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration, and our plans for our next Train Treks. We’ll also talk about what we’ve been doing in the next few months to further our vision of a robust and seamless passenger rail network in the Greater Northwest.
Sec. 22214 Amtrak Long-Distance Studies
The FRA has hired a consultant team to complete the studies of discontinued Amtrak long-distance routes called for in the BIL/IIJA Sec. 22214. These studies will not only evaluate former Amtrak long-distance routes but can also evaluate potential new long-distance routes with the aim of creating a robust and seamless passenger rail network.
We will continue working with the FRA and the consultant team to ensure the Greater Northwest Region is given honest consideration for restored, and new, long-distance passenger rail routes.
We encourage you to join our Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Coalition’s efforts to ensure that these studies lead to real results.
View the FRA presentation about the Sec. 22214 Studies:
Corridor Identification and Development Program
In addition to the long-distance studies, the FRA has started a program focused on corridors and routes under 750 miles.
The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority and a large group of Idaho entities have submitted “Expressions of Interest” for localized corridors in their region, overlapping and reinforcing the call for the Pioneer and North Coast Hiawatha routes.
We encourage states and entities to submit their own Expressions of Interest in order to get on the FRA radar and show the interest of the Greater Northwest Region.
AANW will be submitting an Expression of Interest. We will represent the region, and include routes and corridors that should be considered (even as “long-distance” routes) in order to improve passenger rail options in the Greater Northwest.
Interstate Rail Compacts RFI and Greater NW Compact Establishment
The needs of the Greater Northwest go beyond the Pioneer and North Coast Hiawatha routes although they are the two that can lead us off. We need enhanced Empire Builder and California Zephyr services, north-south connectivity, and so on. These can be accomplished via establishment of Interstate Rail Compacts (IRCs).
These tools can be used to advance regional passenger rail projects. IRCs also make grant applications more competitive, and underscore united regional support. In addition, there is federal matching money available for the operations and coordination activities of the first 10 new compacts to be established.
All Aboard Northwest, along with AORTA, All Aboard Washington and the City of Boise, ID submitted comments on the IRC program to the FRA this week.
We would like to formally establish and obtain funding for one or more IRCs by next spring. The first step is to pass enabling legislation in the states of the Greater Northwest (Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.) We are currently looking for champions in the state legislatures. We have already discussed this with legislators from Oregon, Washington and Idaho, but more sponsors are needed. Please contact us if you can help.
“People live here!”
Amtrak Board Nominations
The ongoing saga of Amtrak Board nominations drags on. The current slate of five candidates all come from the Northeast Corridor, save for Mayor Koos of Normal, IL, in contradiction to the geographical diversity required in the BIL passed last November. We strongly encourage you to contact their US Senators and require geographical representation for the Greater West.
Part of the current mess that Amtrak finds itself in is a mess of its own making. The leadership went ahead and furloughed many workers during the pandemic, especially on the long-distance routes (that had retained ridership the best during the pandemic), even while being warned otherwise. One candidate up for nomination was on the Amtrak Board when these decisions were made.
The Greater Northwest Region is well-represented on the Senate Commerce Committee. We strongly encourage you to contact your US Senators and ask them to:
- Ensure the Greater West, rural America, has representation on the Amtrak Board and
- Secure commitment for expansion and enhancement of the long-distance passenger rail backbone.
Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit
In August, almost 200 representatives of passenger railroad organizations, advocates and enthusiasts together with local, state and federal elected officials and policymakers, host railroads and rail infrastructure experts met in Billings, Montana, to educate, innovate and coordinate for the restoration, expansion and enhancement of passenger rail service across the Greater Northwest.
See Administrator Bose’s remarks (beginning at 16:20) highlighting the importance of the Long-distance network as a foundation of our passenger rail and transportation system.
We’re now planning the Second Annual Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit, tentatively scheduled for July 2023. More information is coming soon.
USDOT/FRA Programs, NOFOs, and Tidbits
Here are key programs, NOFOs and asdfat that you might be interested in.
This program funds projects that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail. $1.427 Billion available, rural set-aside is 25% ($376 million). Federal share capped at 80% (non-Federal at 20% minimum). NOFO closes December 1st, 2022.
For communities that were cut off from economic opportunity or bisected by transportation infrastructure. NOFO closes October 13th, 2022.
The SMART program provides grants to eligible public sector agencies to conduct demonstration projects focused on advanced smart community technologies and systems in order to improve transportation efficiency and safety. NOFO closes November 18th, 2022.
Potential Railroad Strike: Tentative Agreement needs ratification
The marathon rounds of negotiations between railroads, unions, the White House, Labor Department and Agriculture Department needs ratification by Union members and could still fall through. We’ll be tracking these developments closely and what they can mean for the Greater Northwest.
Many state plans have been approved in the Greater Northwest, others submitted pending approval.
What We’re Doing
Eastern Greater Northwest Train Trek (WI, MN, ND, SD, IA)
Similar to our highly successful Greater Northwest Train Trek last month, All Aboard Northwest would like to conduct an eastern Train Trek this fall. We plan to travel through Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa. In order to accomplish this, we’re looking for coordination, logistics, and finding support, connections, and sponsors from the eastern side of our Greater Northwest Region.
Would you like us to visit your town? Here's what we'll need:
- Local co-sponsors (government, economic development organization, service club, media outlet)
- Logistical support (meeting venue, lodging if needed)
- Local keynote speakers
- Advance publicity
- Sponsors and donations to cover costs
Collegiate Train Trek
Also in the works: a Train Trek focusing on college towns throughout the region. Stay tuned for details.
We are getting notices throughout the region and nationally.
- KSL News: A Utah train to Idaho? Salt Lake, Boise leaders are working to restore old service
- KSL News: Do Utah and the West need more passenger trains? These groups make the argument
- Sweetwater Now: RS City Council Hears Pitch on Return of Passenger Train Service
- Western Governors' Association: Best of the West: Regional investments in trains
- Wyoming News: Transforming a community: Guest speakers share benefits of passenger rail service
- Republished in Wyo4News
- City of Rock Springs YouTube: Returning Passenger Trains to a Station Near You
- La Grande Observer: All Aboard Northwest stops in La Grande to advocate for passenger rail
- La Grande Observer: All Aboard Northwest comes to La Grande to advocate for passenger rails
- East Oregonian: All Aboard Northwest comes to Pendleton to advocate for passenger rails
- Elkhorn Media Group: A Push for Passenger Rail in the Pacific Northwest
- Salt Lake City Weekly: All Aboard
AANW works with partners throughout the region to advance passenger rail in the region. Here are a few efforts we’re working on at present.
Chicago Bottleneck - Chicago Access Project
Our friends with the High Speed Rail Alliance are organizing letters and support to ensure that the Chicagoland area doesn’t block more and better passenger rail services, including a reinstated Pioneer or North Coast Hiawatha. There is a pressing need for the Chicago Access Projects if we want to see more and better (on-time) passenger trains. While no such metropolitan area or region of the nation should become the sole focus of our national transportation investment, this is a group of projects that will have lasting impact on the nation, including the Greater Northwest.
If your city is directly served by a train to Chicago, such as the Empire Builder or California Zephyr, or should be served by a train connecting to Chicago, consider asking your local mayors and Congressional delegations to support these capacity improvements.
Week Without Driving 2022
AANW is a co-sponsor of the annual Week Without Driving. If you can drive or afford a car, you may not understand what it’s like to rely on walking, rolling, transit and asking for rides. But for people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can’t afford cars or gas, this is an everyday experience.
The ongoing "Stop Track Tragedies" public awareness campaign shows the impact that rail-related incidents have on families - and communities.
National School Bus Safety Week, October 17-21, 2022
National Pedestrian Safety Month, October, 2022
AAWA supports seamless mobility and safety in any mode.
AANW works toward achieving a national transportation network that provides seamless, door-to-door connectivity to everyone in the Greater Northwest region; and offers economic, environmental and equity benefits to all, including low-income, tribal, disability and rural communities, locations where transportation alternatives are limited, and those who cannot drive.
- AANW shares the latest news by Email Updates and on social media -- Rail.chat (Mastodon), Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
- AANW speaks to local economic development groups and service clubs.
- AANW generates press coverage and publicity about the importance of passenger rail.
- AANW builds coalitions with groups throughout the region.
- AANW represents your interests with elected officials and government agencies.
All Aboard Northwest is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. Thank you for your support!
Let us know if you have any questions or feedback on this information, and we'll be in touch again as there are new developments.
Dan, Charlie, and Patrick