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Q.C. passenger rail on track to return in late 2015

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The push to restore passenger rail service remains on a roll in the Quad Cities. If all goes well, Amtrak service between Chicago and Moline will be back in late 2015.

While funding is in place to finish the Illinois route, the Quad Cities to Iowa City connection remains on hold.

In just 13 months, Moline wants the station and hotel in place. That means lots of work to do in a little time.

Right now, a freight train's rumble is the only sign of rail service on these tracks. But over the next two years, Amtrak service should rejoin the corridor and connect Chicago with the Quad Cities for the first time in decades.

"All indications are it will be a go here in the Quad Cities," said Paul Rumler, executive director of the QC Passenger Rail Coalition. "Train service will be operating here in the Quad Cities in just a matter of a couple years."

Moline is close to finalizing a deal with a developer to convert the former O'Rourke building into a train station and hotel. Work could still begin later this year. The timetable for completion is October 2014.

"I think it's going to be a very attractive place," said Moline City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher. "It's going to be a point of destination for people in the downtown."

The track upgrade is another important part of the project. Final design and engineering work is taking place right now.

The Illinois Department of Transportation plans to prepare this passageway over the next two years. In 2014, crews will work between Chicago and Wyanet. In 2015, they'll finish the more complicated stretch between Wyanet and Moline.

"There are no signals for those 53 miles," said IDOT Director Joe Shacter. "Not only are we having to upgrade the track and ties, we have to add a whole new signal system."

If everything falls into place, Amtrak will be back in late 2015. It will make quite a statement for the Quad Cities.

"A lot of work is underway," Rumler said. "It just isn't the visible part of construction yet. We should see that start here in a matter of months."

They'll hear a railroad rumble that's ready to roll down the tracks with cargo and passengers.