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Report: Midwest's passenger-rail lines could play a prominent role in emergency preparedness planning


Passenger rail could play a vital role in emergency evacuations and supply delivery in the Midwest if improvements were made to the region’s intercity rail lines, according to a report recently released by the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC).

“Responding Regionally: The role of passenger rail in Midwestern emergency planning” uses case studies from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and last year’s Gulf Coast hurricanes to highlight the role passenger rail can play in emergency situations. Currently, passenger rail does not factor into most Midwestern emergency plans, largely because lines need to be upgraded to handle faster, more frequent trains to play a pivotal role in large-scale evacuations, according to the commission.

The report details two plans to improve the region’s passenger-rail system: the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MRRI) and Ohio Hub plan.

Sponsored by nine Midwestern states, the MRRI includes improving track and signal systems throughout a 3,000-mile network to provide faster links between Midwestern cities, with Chicago serving as the hub.

The proposed Ohio Hub plan would link the state’s five major cities, and provide a connection between Midwestern and East Coast corridors.

Under the MRRI and Ohio plans, 86 trains would operate throughout the region — 67 more than currently operate. Now, the only trains available to many Midwestern states are those that operate on Amtrak’s long-distance routes, according to the report.

Created in 2000, MIPRC comprises the states of Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio.