What’s the holdup? The latest on passenger rail from Moline to Chicago

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MOLINE, Illinois- Thursday, February 14, we had Breakfast With Rick Harnish, the Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, a group claiming it’s the leading advocacy group for high speed rail in the U.S.

We were at the Element Hotel downtown. The east portion of the building, known as the “The Q,” is supposed to be the site of the new passenger rail station to take people from the city to Chicago. 

Two years ago, we spoke with Harnish about the project. He said the reason it’s not finished yet is because former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner put the project on hold four years ago.

Has anything changed since then?

In June of 2018, the Illinois Department of Transportation reached a tentative deal with the Federal Railroad Administration to extend the Chicago to Moline rail agreement.That allows Illinois to use millions of dollars in federal funding that was set to expire at the end of June of 2018. The extension allows the grant money to be used until June of 2019 now, but the question remains, will the state pay for its portion of the project?

We asked Harnish that question. We also asked him if new Governor J.B. Pritzker will help push this project forward. He says the project will become a reality, but he says the community needs to push Pritzker, in order to make it happen.

"Springfield today has five trains a day," Harnish said Thursday. "It's the same distance. The Quad Cities is a much more vibrant economic region. It definitely would be successful if you had at least five trains a day. You need to push really hard in order to make it happen."

Harnish also told us Illinois lawmakers will likely form a capital investment bill later this spring. He says passenger rail will have to be a part of the bill in order for that project to become a reality.

Our interviews with Harnish started during the 6 o'clock hour of Good Morning Quad Cities. He also did a Facebook live with us at the end of our show. To see that, click on the video below.

Can't see the live stream? Click here.

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