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      MODOT to discuss railway improvements

      Administrator of Railroads Eric Curtit explains the 20-year railway recommendations at a hearing in Hannibal.

      UPDATED: April 12 at 6:20 p.m.

      The Hannibal region has made its case for passenger rail service to the area, but funding is like a big crossing arm keeping the project from moving forward.

      Representatives of Hannibal city government, industrial development officials and others turned out for a public hearing hosted by MODOT Thursday. They've been lobbying for passenger rail service from Chicago to Quincy and on to Hannibal.

      Admininistrator of Railroads Eric Curtit told the group that any expansion of rail service would require millions of dollars of additional funding to somehow become available. It would also depend on negotiations with the state of Illinois.

      A rail line from Quincy to Hannibal is included in MODOT's 20-year plan recommendation, but as it stands, there are no dedicated state funds for passenger rail in Missouri.

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      The Missouri Department of Transportation has come up with a plan to improve passenger and freight rail service--now it's looking for opinions from the public.

      MODOT is hosting meetings around the state on its 20-year rail plan. The public is invited Thursday to an open house meeting from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. at the Hannibal Nutrition Center. Officials will make a formal presentation at 4:45.

      MODOT is making its rail recommendations after a series of previous meetings in the state last fall.

      "Missourians told us both freight and passenger rail provide numerous economic, environmental and transportation benefits to the state," Eric Curtit, state administrator of railroads said. "They made it very clear increased access to both types of service is important to Missouri's future."

      Draft recommendations also call for completion of projects designed to improve the reliability of the state-supported Amtrak Missouri River Runner service, with a longer-term goal of adding more trains and schedule options to the route. This service currently operates at 79 mph and with incremental improvements could travel as fast as 90 mph. The plan also proposes a staged approach to establishing dedicated high-speed passenger rail service (110 mph or higher) between St. Louis and Kansas City and setting priorities for new corridor developments, such as service to Springfield and Hannibal and feeder bus routes to Branson, Columbia and St. Joseph.

      The recommendations also include better funding and the continued development of Missouri's rail system.

      Click here to see the complete draft plan. You can also leave your comments about the at www.morail.org until May 4.