Group gets some money for Chicago Amtrak


The Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition has received $475,000 toward a goal of $56 million to install a passenger line linking Iowa City with Chicago.

Paul Rumler, the group’s executive director, made the announcement at a Chamber of Commerce public forum Thursday. The money was earmarked in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill that President Obama signed two days ago, Rumler said.

“We have the first-ever federal funding for the Chicago to Quad Cities route,” he said. “It’s not all the money, but it is a start.”

The first step in the process is to secure a rail line from Chicago to the Quad Cities — a plan already well on its way.

“The station in the Quad Cities would be located at Centre Station,” a Moline transit hub, Rumler said. “We still need to raise the track-connection money.”

Funding the coalition has secured will finance the part of the line between Chicago and the Quad Cities. The total price tag for that part of the project is an estimated $23 million.

The length of track from the Quad Cities to Iowa City will cost nearly $32.5 million. The cost of operating the entire rail line is estimated between $2 million and $3 million.

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The two sets of track would be built separately and connected sometime in the next three to four years, said Stan Peterson, a transportation planner with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Rebecca Neades of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce said there are a number of good reasons to link Iowa City and Chicago. Among them is the estimated 4,800 students from Illinois who attend the UI. The proposed rail line would be more economically feasible then traveling by car or airplane and would be easier on the environment, she said.

The emissions per passenger on trains are less than those of cars, Neades said, and the line would provide around 1,000 permanent jobs for Iowa and Illinois residents.

“I believe it’s economical and needed,” said Mychael Barnes, an entertainer from North Liberty. “It’s green, culturally enhancing, and economical.”

Tickets for the proposed line are affordable compared with airline tickets, as well. An average one-way ticket from Iowa City to Chicago would fall between $40 and $50, said Derrick James, the manager of government affairs for Amtrak. The trip by train would be five hours long.

Proponents of the project expect to receive match funds from the state and federal stimulus bills, though in different carnations.

Peterson said stimulus money contained $3 million for transportation in Iowa, but Gov. Chet Culver stripped the passenger rail money and put it into a bond program instead.

Residents in favor of a passenger rail line should write to state legislators to demonstrate their support, he suggested.

“We need to separate rail funding from general transportation funding,” he said. “It gets lumped in and might get spent on highways and bridges.”

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