Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon urges rail funding decision

Online Staff Report

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — While welcoming national and international visitors to the Rock Island Train Festival July 21, Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D) encouraged Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) to finalize his state’s rail plan and move forward with design and construction of a Chicago to Iowa City rail connection.

Progress on the Chicago to Moline portion of the line is moving slowly, as federal funding will not be released to Illinois until Iowa decides whether it will provide matching state funds for the Moline to Iowa City extension, Simon said.

“I want to see leaders in Illinois and Iowa working together to bring passenger rail from Chicago to Iowa City so we can create jobs, spur economic development and provide a fast, affordable connection between these vibrant communities,” Simon said.

In 2010, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced a federal commitment of $230 million to the rail project to supplement $45 million in state capital funds. The federal portion was issued jointly to Iowa and Illinois, and will not be released until both parties agree to the project implementation. If Iowa provides its state’s matching share, the project can begin. Should Iowa decline, Illinois will receive its portion of the federal funds and can proceed with plans for rail construction between Chicago and Moline.

Additional state and federal funding has been secured for construction of a new multimodal station in Moline. Early estimates show that with station and rail line, the state could stand to gain upward of 1,100 construction jobs and 3,500 other direct and indirect jobs.

“Since 2007, the Quad Cities Chamber has led a broad-based Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition (QC Rail) to advocate for restored passenger rail service to Chicago,” said Tara Barney, chief executive officer of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. “Through QC Rail, over 10,000 Quad Cities area residents, elected officials, businesses, labor groups and community organizations have expressed their support for passenger rail to local, state and federal officials.”

The Quad Cities have not had passenger rail service since the late 1970s. Under the proposed service, two daily round trips will transport passengers to and from the Quad Cities in just over three hours. As planned, train service would continue west to Iowa City, and, per the nine-state Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, eventually on to Omaha, Neb.

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