MOLINE, Illinois — Millions of dollars in already approved federal funding will expire on June 30, 2016 without confirmation from Illinois Governor, Bruce Rauner that the state of Illinois is still backing the passenger rail line from the Quad Cities to Chicago.
The project requires money from the federal, state and local levels, but about $80 million from the state level is being held up by Illinois budget problems.
At this point, the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce is working on getting a formal progress update on the timeline for the project from Governor Rauner. Henry Marquard is Director of Government Affairs for the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce. Given the years of time, political effort, and money spent on the passenger rail project, tensions are high.
"It's pretty tense. All aspects of it to make sure the capital in Illinois hears the message that this is very important to us, not to say we couldn't ever get a rail again, but this is a one-time offer and if we let the federal funds, $177-million in federal funds, expire we won't get that back anytime soon," said Marquard.
Ray Forsythe, Director at the Planning and Development Department for the City of Moline says The Q's economic success does not solely rely on the passenger train. The Element by Westin hotel chose the location for its extended stay hotel because of the close proximity to downtown Moline and businesses.
"We've chosen to do a mixed use building that has the hotel, it has 20,000 sq. ft. for restaurants and other retail which really could be a stand-alone development waiting for the train to come," said Forsythe.
Money is not what the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce and local political leaders, like Congresswoman Cheri Bustos are after immediately. They are asking for a formal timeline for the passenger rail project going forward. That would allow federal money to come through.
"We understand that the governor and the department of transportation want to engage in responsible budgeting," said Marquard. "That has been a top priority in the Quad Cities Chamber on our legislative issues from all levels of government. We have to be very responsible budgeting, it's something that has been a widespread problem in our country. However, we also cannot afford to let these programs go to the wayside while we wait for what [the Illinois budget] is going to look like.