August 15, 2012

SPRINGFIELD (Aug. 15)—Gov. Pat Quinn has appointed UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC).

The unsalaried appointment, which carries no term limit, will enable Guy to collaborate with 47 fellow appointees from the 10 states making up the Commission—Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin—in planning the expansion and development of Midwestern passenger rail routes and services.

“I am very grateful to Gov. Quinn for this appointment and I am eagerly looking forward to sitting down with my fellow commissioners, including the Commission Chairman, Illinois State Rep. Elaine Nekritz,” Guy said. “Elaine is chairman of the Illinois House Railroad Committee and one of the most dedicated and accomplished passenger-train advocates in the history of our state.”

Headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, the Commission was established in 2000 by the governors and legislatures of the Midwestern states to coordinate their passenger-rail development efforts and to advocate for the state and federal funding needed to make state-supported rail programs modernize and expand.

Much of the work of the Commission is determined by its blueprint, the Midwest Rail Initiative, which envisions a 3,000-mile network of 110-mph passenger rail lines connecting the 10 states through a hub at Chicago. The blueprint also envisions several supporting segments that do not hub at Chicago, such as a Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati route in Ohio.

Each state sends four members to the Commission—one appointed by each chamber of the legislature and two appointed by the governor, the latter including one member from state government and one from the private sector. As a labor-union representative, Guy is considered a private-sector appointee. Illinois Transportation Sec. Ann L. Schneider serves as Gov. Quinn’s appointee from the government sector.

Guy said he was particularly excited about his appointment because it comes at a time of “tremendous promise” for passenger rail in the Midwest.

“Within two years Illinois and Michigan each will have more than 200 miles of 110-mph track in operation on their busiest rail routes, Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit,” he said, calling the faster new train service “both a challenge and an opportunity.”

Guy noted that both routes are 284 miles long, and when the new track and signaling are in operation the end-to-end running times will drop from close to 6 hours to 4½ hours.

“Think what that’s going to mean for ridership and job creation,” he said. “Ridership already is growing at 7 to 8 per cent per year. “When the trains start going 30 mph faster and the on-time performance improves even more the ridership is going to shoot through the roof, and Commission members are going to have turn their attention to matters such as building modern intermodal stations with on-site local-transit connections and adjacent economic developments.

“I expect the Illinois and Michigan passenger-rail programs to become something of a model for the rest of the nation—as well as for Midwestern states such as Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin that are still bashful about going all-in on passenger-rail development,” Guy said.

“It’s an exciting time and I’m proud to be representing our members as we look forward to improving and expanding the rail industry.”