"Thanks to federal funding and investments by Union Pacific Railroad and the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, Missouri will start several projects in 2011 that will continue to improve capacity and on-time performance along the Kansas City-St. Louis-Chicago corridor," said Rod Massman, MoDOT's rail administrator. "These improvements will help build a rail system that connects people in the Midwest for years to come."
MoDOT will use $3.6 million to construct a third main line track and install the signals and switches associated with the project near the Gateway Station on the St. Louis Terminal Railroad. When the new 11,000-foot track is completed, it will carry freight trains, leaving the existing main line track closest to the station primarily for Amtrak passenger trains. The other track will be used to make it easier for freight and passenger trains to pass each other, reducing the congestion that occurs now as trains have to wait for others to clear before they enter the station. It will also help unclog streets where motorists are sometimes held up by trains blocking crossings across the western metropolitan area. Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis is providing a 20 percent match to the construction funds for a total project cost of $4.5 million.
A second $500,000 grant will fund a new State Rail Plan that will include a comprehensive analysis and planning process for Missouri's rail system. The plan will look at continued enhancements of the Kansas City to St. Louis passenger rail corridor and further explore interest some communities, such as Springfield, St. Joseph and Hannibal, have expressed in passenger rail corridor development. The study will also focus on ways to improve rail-highway crossing safety and methods to foster freight rail development that will grow Missouri's economy.
The study will be shaped by input from the public. MoDOT will conduct extensive public outreach in all 10 districts to learn what Missourians expect and what ideas and/or concerns exist regarding rail development in the state. Previous studies have helped identify projects and investments to improve the performance and reliability of passenger and freight train traffic in Missouri.
As some projects have been completed, train service has improved significantly. One example is the new rail siding near California, MO that eliminated a major bottleneck between Kansas City and Jefferson City when it opened a year ago last November. Such improvements have boosted on-time performance of Amtrak's Missouri River Runner service, which operates between Kansas City and St. Louis.
Last year, the passenger trains were on schedule 92 percent of the time. The number of passengers is also on the rise. Ridership grew by 22.5 percent month-to-date in September, far outpacing the 6 percent growth rate of customers nationally. Missouri River Runner is currently the nation's fourth fastest growing, state-supported rail corridor.
Earlier this year, MoDOT received $31 million for high-speed rail projects that will be used on additional capacity-building projects, such as a second rail bridge over the Osage River.