Branstad kills Iowa involvement in high-speed rail

BY DI STAFF | AUGUST 22, 2011 7:20 AM

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Gov. Terry Branstad’s decision to quash Iowa’s participation in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Coalition has created further debate over the profitability of high-speed railway in Iowa.

Branstad’s action follows Iowa governing councils — including the Iowa City City Council, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County — pledging a combined $15,000 toward Iowa’s membership in the multistate organization, which plans services and lobbys for rail funding.

Branstad’s move came after several months of lukewarm reception toward the proposed Iowa City-Chicago Passenger Rail Project by the governor and Iowa Legislature, including a June decision not to allocate additional money for the project this fiscal year.

The lack of state support stems from concerns over the rail’s expenses — an estimated $3 million a year — given the state’s struggling economy, said Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht.

“I think that there was a lot of concern [in the Legislature] over the ongoing subsidies that Iowa would ultimately be on the hook for,” he said. “This is not an inexpensive proposition, and thus far, there are studies that have shown that Iowa very likely would be on hook for ongoing subsidies at a time when agencies are actually seeing reductions in their budget.”

— by Luke Voelz

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