Richard Harnish

Richard Harnish is the Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA), a member-supported non-profit organization advocating for fast, frequent and dependable trains linking the entire Midwest.

Harnish is a leading creative force in the transportation policy reform movement, and his ideas are revolutionizing rail and transit advocacy. Through the MHSRA he has mobilized nearly 40,000 advocates, educated thousands of government and business leaders, and helped elevate high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail on the national stage.

Harnish co-founded MHSRA in 1993 and became its first executive director in February 2001 after leading a successful fundraising campaign. The Association is now the oldest and largest high-speed rail advocacy organization in the U.S.

The Association has had several important successes under Harnish’s leadership:

  • MHSRA played a key role in the Illinois General Assembly doubling its annual Amtrak appropriation in 2006, resulting in a doubling of frequencies on three Illinois routes.
  • The Association was instrumental in a subsequent $850 million Illinois appropriation for railroad infrastructure investment, the largest state legislative appropriation for railroads in U.S. history.
  • In 2009, MHSRA commissioned the first ever transportation engineering study for a 220-mph rail corridor in the Midwest.
  • In 2009, Harnish led a national coalition of more than a dozen regional and national organizations in a campaign for a $4 billion U.S. appropriation for high-speed rail and intercity passenger rail. Congress appropriated the requested funds.
  • MHSRA persuaded Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to launch a $1 million, state-sponsored high-speed rail feasibility study in 2011.
  • In 2012, MHSRA provided critical media support and conducted a successful web and email campaign to support Californians for High Speed Rail. In July, the California legislature voted “yes” on beginning construction on the nation’s fits true high-speed rail line.

Harnish graduated from Elmhurst College in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in transportation management.  Prior to his position at MHSRA, Harnish worked at freight giants American President Lines and JB Hunt and managed industrial real estate in Chicago.