Iowa feeling pressure to commit to passenger rail

passenger rail

Iowa officials may be running out of time to come up with matching funds to bring passenger rail between Chicago and Omaha through several cities in Iowa.

Plans for the route have been in the works since 2009, with passenger trains running between Chicago and Omaha via the Quad Cities, Iowa City and Des Moines.  Federal transportation officials committed $230 million to the project with the condition that Iowa and Illinois also contribute funding.

Illinois officials laid out a timeline in November for the leg that travels between Chicago and the Quad Cities with stops in Princeton and Geneseo. 

Iowa businesses and the Department of Transportation support continuing the line through Iowa, but the state’s part of the funding has not yet been established

Opponents say there won’t be enough riders to justify extending the line to travel between Iowa City and Chicago.  The $20 million matching contribution and $3 million annual subsidy to support the line are also meeting with some opposition.

Supporters say the line would bring additional jobs and revenue to Iowa.  There is no official deadline but the federal funds are not available unless Iowa commits matching money.  Supporters say the state risks losing the passenger rail line altogether unless it commits to the project in 2013.