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passenger rail

Matt Hinch will be Branstad's new chief of staff

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Oct 02, 2013 at 09:10:00 AM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad announced yesterday that Matt Hinch will start work as his new chief of staff on October 14. A short bio of Hinch is in the press release I've posted after the jump. He has worked as a Congressional and campaign staffer to U.S. Representative Tom Latham, chief of staff to Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, and most recently as a lobbyist for the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

Hinch's connections with the partnership made me wonder whether he might open the governor's mind regarding proposed passenger rail service between Chicago and Omaha. Branstad has long opposed allocating state funds to match a federal grant for passenger rail. Like many business groups, the Greater Des Moines Partnership has supported state funding for the rail project as part of its legislative agenda. But probably I am raising false hopes; interviews Hinch gave last year suggest that rail wasn't on his radar as an issue to press on behalf of the partnership. Moreover, Hinch's former boss Latham has historically been hostile to funding alternate modes of transportation, including passenger rail. Hinch's former boss Paulsen works for a trucking company and adamantly opposes state funding for passenger rail.

Branstad's legal counsel Brenna Findley has served as interim chief of staff since Jeff Boeyink left last month to start work as a lobbyist. She's more qualified to run the governor's office than she is for her current position, so I thought she might become the next permanent chief of staff. Perhaps she is gearing up for a second bid to become Iowa's attorney general. Running for statewide office is a full-time job.

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Iowa DOT to study Chicago to Omaha passenger rail

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Sep 16, 2011 at 12:41:26 PM CDT

Iowa Department of Transportation officials have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to separate the $230 million federal grant intended to support passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City. Separating the funds would allow the Illinois Department of Transportation to move ahead with the Chicago to Moline (Quad Cities) portion of the rail line. Meanwhile, the Iowa DOT will study a potential passenger rail link all the way to Omaha, Nebraska.
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Branstad names Paul Trombino to run Department of Transportation

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Apr 27, 2011 at 15:00:21 PM CDT

Governor Terry Branstad finally announced his choice to head the Iowa Department of Transportation today. Paul Trombino III has been serving as Bureau Director of Transit, Local Roads, Rails, and Harbors for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Before this year he was Region Operations Director of the Wisconsin DOT. After the jump I've posted the press release announcing Trombino's appointment, which includes some details on his education and work experience. Trombino's appointment is subject to Iowa Senate confirmation, but he is well qualified for the job and should not run into any trouble.

I hope that in his new position, Trombino will be able to target state resources toward repairing Iowa's many deficient bridges and roads, as opposed to spending the lion's share on new road construction.

I also hope he will help the governor see the benefits of expanding passenger rail in Iowa. Representing the Wisconsin DOT at a high-speed rail conference last year, Trombino depicted passenger rail as part of a "robust, diverse transportation system that meets the public need," not something to be pursued instead of repairing state highways. (Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker rejected federal high-speed rail funding shortly after taking office this year.) Passenger rail was a goal of former Governor Chet Culver's administration, but Branstad has made clear that roads will be his top concern, funded with a higher gas tax if necessary. Branstad didn't include any passenger rail money in his draft budget, although he hasn't definitively rejected federal funds allocated last year to extend a rail link from Chicago to Iowa City. Rail advocates have been working on funding plans that would require certain local communities to cover part of future passenger rail subsidies.

Branstad announced most of his picks to lead state departments in November and December, but he delayed choosing a head for the Iowa DOT. Instead, he asked Nancy Richardson to stay on through the 2011 legislative session. Governor Tom Vilsack originally named Richardson to that position, and she was one of the few Vilsack department heads that Culver left in place.

Branstad's administration is nearly complete, but he has a few other significant personnel decisions to make. Earlier this month the Iowa Senate rejected his choice to lead the Department of Human Rights and one of his appointees to the State Judicial Nominating Commission. Branstad also needs to fill one more vacancy on the state Environmental Protection Commission. He withdrew one of his nominees to that body after the Sierra Club's Iowa chapter pointed out the governor's choices would leave the commission with too many Republican members.

UPDATE: Branstad nominated Nancy Couser for the last open spot on the Environmental Protection Commission. She is a cattle feeder from rural Nevada who also serves on the Iowa Beef Industry Council.  

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Iowa passenger rail funding update

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:57:58 PM CDT

Last October the U.S. Department of Transportation approved $230 million for passenger rail between Iowa City and Chicago, going through the Quad Cities. However, the November election results placed both federal and state money for that project in doubt.

Follow me after the jump for recent news on prospects for funding the passenger rail link.  

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Register poll on Obama, gay marriage and more

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 28, 2011 at 10:02:37 AM CST

The Des Moines Register continues to release results from its latest statewide poll. Selzer and Co surveyed 800 Iowa adults between February 13 and 16. Bleeding Heartland discussed the Register's poll numbers on Governor Terry Branstad here.

Follow me after the jump to discuss President Barack Obama's approval inching up in Iowa, slight growth in support for same-sex marriage rights, views on ways to close the state budget gap, and more.

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How well did Iowa use transportation stimulus money?

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 07, 2011 at 10:14:02 AM CST

Last week the non-profit organization Smart Growth America released a report on "how successful states have been in creating jobs with their flexible $26.6 billion of transportation funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA)." The report demonstrates that "the states that created the most jobs were the ones that invested [stimulus funds] in public transportation projects and projects that maintained and repaired existing roads and bridges. The states that spent their [stimulus] funds predominantly building new roads and bridges created fewer jobs."

Table 2 of the full report (pdf file) ranks the states in terms of percentage of road spending allocated to "system preservation" (road and bridge repair) versus building new capacity. Here Iowa did well, spending 93 percent of the stimulus road money on repair work. Iowa ranked 12th in this category; seven states and Washington, DC spent 100 percent of their ARRA road funds on repair.

Iowa didn't score as well (30th place) on Smart Growth America's list of states by the percent of stimulus transportation funding spent on public transit or non-motorized projects. Just 3.5 percent of Iowa's transportation stimulus money went to such projects. That's not surprising; it has long been difficult to persuade Iowa policy-makers to invest more in passenger transit, even though we have an aging population, and many older Americans want alternatives to driving. A long-range transportation funding plan adopted in 2008 didn't require a single extra dollar to be spent on public transit in Iowa. The Republican-controlled Iowa House has already voted to scrap funding that would help bring passenger rail service to Iowa City, and Governor Terry Branstad didn't include passenger rail funding in his draft budget for the next two years.

After the jump I've posted excerpts from the full report, which explain why repair and transit projects create more jobs per dollar spent. A memo about the recent opinion poll findings references below can be downloaded here (pdf).

Smart Growth America's latest study didn't assess the rate at which states turned around their stimulus transportation funding to create jobs. A 2009 study by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee showed that Iowa was the second-best state in terms of allocating stimulus road funds quickly. At the end of July 2009, 85.1 percent of the $358 million Iowa received for highway and bridge projects was under contract, and 74.9 percent was for projects already underway. Those percentages were more than double the national average.  

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Branstad keeps DOT head Richardson in place for now

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 15, 2010 at 06:20:00 AM CST

Governor-elect Terry Branstad has asked Nancy Richardson to remain head of the Iowa Department of Transportation "through the 2011 legislative session." Governor Tom Vilsack appointed Richardson to head the DOT during his second term; she was one of the few department heads Governor Chet Culver kept in place. A Branstad press release with background on Richardson is after the jump. It says she "is a strong leader and we appreciate her willingness to serve in the administration as we continue our nationwide search for a new director."

Perhaps Branstad will take several months to consider DOT candidates from around the country, but he hasn't been using that kind of process for other appointments announced so far. Shortly after the election, he offered the Department of Inspections and Appeals director job to Rod Roberts, who hadn't even applied for the position, let alone competed against other possible appointees in an interview.

My first thought on hearing the news about Richardson was that Branstad has already decided on a new DOT director, but for some reason that person isn't available to start the job until the spring. (The Iowa legislature's 2011 session begins in January; most years, legislators wrap up their work in April.) It could be someone outside Iowa who needs a few months to relocate, or someone who needs to finish a major project in her/his current job, or perhaps a sitting state legislator who doesn't want to step down until after the session.

Alternatively, Branstad may have someone controversial in mind for the DOT position. State department heads must be confirmed by the Iowa Senate. If Branstad appoints Richardson's replacement after the session ends, that person will be able to serve on an interim basis until the Senate considers the nomination in early 2012.

UPDATE: Branstad's spokesman Tim Albrecht told the Des Moines Register, "We do not have anyone lined up at this time. We are still in the midst of our search, and that is not confined to the borders of Iowa. This is going to be a thorough search to find the right individual." I wonder why Branstad wants a much more lengthy search for this position than for various other important state departments.

While she stays on the job, I hope that Richardson will help persuade Branstad not to back out of a passenger rail project that would connect Iowa City to Chicago via the Quad Cities. Richardson isn't a visionary for alternative modes of transportation, but she supported the Culver administration's efforts to promote passenger rail in Iowa. Branstad said he is reviewing the costs and benefits of the project. The federal government has approved $230 million in funding for the Iowa portion of the rail connection. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley has spoken favorably about the project, and Des Moines business leaders hope the Chicago-Iowa City connection will one day be extended through Des Moines and on to Council Bluffs and Omaha.

Republican governors-elect in Ohio and Wisconsin have rejected federal funding for passenger rail projects. That decision is already costing Wisconsin jobs and will cost Ohio economic development opportunities.

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Iowa-Chicago rail funding secure despite election

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 14:48:26 PM CDT

The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives will change transportation policy priorities, but should not affect recently announced funding for a Chicago to Iowa City passenger rail link. KCCI-TV questioned this week, "Will Election Changes Kill Iowa-Chicago Train Funding?"

Florida Rep. John Mica, the comittee's ranking GOP member, told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that he believes high-speed trains are a good idea, but he doesn't agree with the projects selected by the Transportation Department for funding.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was in Iowa just last week, where he joined local leaders to celebrate $230 million in federal money to start work on a passenger rail line. Service on the new GreenLine is expected to begin in 2015 and take passengers from Chicago's Union Station to the Quad Cities to Iowa City.

I contacted the Federal Railroad Administration today to find out whether there is any way for Congress to reverse the passenger rail funding decisions. FRA spokesman Rob Kulat said, "You'd have to ask Chairman Mica" how he thinks he can do that, adding, "The money has been awarded." When I asked about a possible review process, Kulat repeated, "The money has been awarded."

The Wall Street Journal reported on November 3 that the newly elected Republican governors of Ohio and Wisconsin want to cancel passenger rail projects in their states. The same article said Iowa Governor-elect Terry Branstad "has supported expanding rail service between Chicago and cities in Iowa." However, in late October Branstad's campaign manager "declined to comment" when the Des Moines Register asked "if Branstad would support the use of state money to establish Chicago-to-Iowa City passenger service."

Some Republicans claimed the passenger rail grant was a political ploy to help endangered Democrats in Iowa and the Quad Cities. If so, it didn't work. Representative Phil Hare lost his re-election bid in Illinois' 17th Congressional district, including Rock Island and Moline. Representative Bruce Braley was re-elected narrowly but trailed his Republican opponent in Scott County, containing Davenport and Bettendorf. Governor Chet Culver didn't carry Scott County either.

It's too bad the outgoing Congress didn't approve a comprehensive transportation funding bill. Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar had a strong vision for balancing priorities and increasing investments in passenger rail and public transit. The Republicans who will write the new highway bill have little interest in rail or the administration's efforts to make roads more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. At a Congressional hearing this March, Iowa's own Tom Latham asserted that every bicyclist is one fewer person paying into the transportation trust fund.

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Chicago-Iowa City passenger rail funding approved

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 16:13:33 PM CDT

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded $230 million in federal funding today for a new Amtrak route connecting Chicago and Iowa City, Senators Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin announced. The route will go through the Quad Cities. From a statement released by Harkin's office:

The project - scheduled for completion in 2015 - will create 588 jobs per year for the first four years of design and construction.  Once initiated, the new service is expected to increase business activity at $25 million per year. [...]

The new Chicago - Quad Cities - Iowa City route will provide two daily round-trips and carry trains traveling at speeds up to 79 miles per hour (mph) with an expected trip time of less than 5 hours.  The long-term vision for the line includes expanding the frequency of trains to offer more than two daily round-trip trains; extending the route; and making additional infrastructure investments to increase speeds from 79 mph to 90 mph, or even 110 mph.

Today's news is a pleasant surprise. Although Governor Chet Culver and several members of Congress strongly advocated for expanding passenger rail in Iowa, the U.S. Department of Transportation did not fund an earlier grant request supporting Amtrak routes between Chicago and Iowa City and Chicago and Dubuque.

A 2008 Amtrak feasibility study on passenger rail from Iowa City to the Quad Cities estimated annual ridership on the route at "about 187,000 passengers, based on two daily round-trips and if improvements are made allowing maximum speeds of 79 mph." Typical passenger trains reach maximum speeds of 79 mph; anything faster than 110 mph is considered "high-speed rail."

More details on today's announced funding are in the full statement from Harkin's office, which I've posted after the jump. The Quad-City Rail Coalition website has additional background information on the proposed route. Central Iowa business and political leaders hope a Chicago-Iowa City passenger rail link could eventually be extended through Des Moines to the Council Bluffs-Omaha metro area.

UPDATE: I've added a press release from the governor's office with more details. It states that first-year ridership on the route between Iowa City and Chicago is projected at 246,800.

TUESDAY UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley also expressed support for this passenger rail link: "You're finding a situation where, connected with the problems of Homeland Security, the problems of terrorists on airplanes, the fact that airlines are having trouble providing the service they used to provide, alternative service like rail service is something that, at least on a regional basis, is going to pay off."

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Feds give no money for passenger rail to Iowa City

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 10:04:37 AM CST

The Des Moines Register's William Petroski reports today that the Obama administration declined requests for federal money to support Amtrak routes between Chicago and Iowa City and between Chicago and Dubuque.

A list of grants issued Wednesday night by the White House shows that Iowa will receive only $18 million in federal railroad passenger money. This includes $1 million to study a proposed passenger train that would run daily between Chicago and Omaha, including stops in the Quad Cities, Iowa City and Des Moines.

The remaining $17 million will be used to install four remote- controlled powered crossovers on the BNSF Railway tracks in the Ottumwa area. This will reduce travel times and improve on-time performance on Amtrak's existing California Zephyr train that runs across southern Iowa, federal officials said.

Iowa and Illinois officials had sought $256 million in federal funds for the Chicago to Iowa City route, which would go through the Quad Cities, and $139 million for the Chicago to Dubuque route.

Dubuque and the Quad Cities may get passenger rail despite today's disappointing news:

Even without the federal money, Illinois officials expect to begin Amtrak service between Chicago and Dubuque and Chicago and the Quad Cities, possibly within two years, officials said. That's because Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a $31 billion capital construction package last year to ensure the rail expansion.

But the federal grants would have bolstered both projects and would have assured the extension of the train service to Iowa City, and possibly eventually to Des Moines, officials said.

A feasibility study from 2008 showed promising numbers for an Amtrak route connecting Iowa City to the Quad Cities. A huge number of University of Iowa students are from the Chicago area, and many people living in that region of Iowa travel to Chicago for business or entertainment.

In comments to the Des Moines Reigster, Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba predicted yesterday that the Chicago to Iowa City train would receive some federal funding by 2013, even if the current grant request was denied. I hope he turns out to be right.

UPDATE: Governor Chet Culver's response to this news is after the jump.

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Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Jan 08, 2010 at 14:13:59 PM CST

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I've posted links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor's race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 07:52:32 AM CST

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama's administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn't have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can't say I wasn't warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year's political events are welcome in this thread.

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A few links on passenger rail and transportation policy

by: desmoinesdem

Sun Jul 26, 2009 at 23:04:29 PM CDT

Governor Chet Culver rode a train from Iowa City to Chicago Sunday, promoting passenger rail links en route to the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit, which starts Monday.  

After the jump I've posted some news relating to passenger rail in Iowa and nationwide, including a follow-up on Congressman Tom Latham's attempt to transfer funds from high-speed rail to the highway fund.

UPDATE: From the governor's office on July 27:

Governor Chet Culver and Governor Pat Quinn today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to coordinate efforts by Iowa and Illinois to establish passenger rail service from Chicago to Dubuque and from Chicago to the Quad Cities and Iowa City.

In addition, Governor Culver joined leaders from eight states who signed a Memorandum of Understanding in support of regional high-speed rail. That agreement includes, as a key goal, extending passenger service from Iowa City to Des Moines and on to Omaha. [...]

Following the signing of the eight-state high-speed rail agreement, Iowa and Illinois officials signed a separate agreement that spells out action to be taken by the transportation departments in both states.

Click here and scroll down to find links to the rail agreements signed in Chicago on July 27.

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Tom Latham is trying to take $3 billion from passenger rail and use it for more highways

by: IowaGlobalWarming

Thu Jul 23, 2009 at 13:35:23 PM CDT

(Thanks for the action alert. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Today the House of Representatives will be voting on the FY10
Transportation Housing and Urban Development appropriations
bill. There is currently $4 billion dollars for intercity
passenger rail in this bill - these are funds that could be used
to restore Chicago-Dubuque and Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City-Des
Moines passenger rail!

However, Representative Tom Latham has introduced an amendment
that would eliminate $3 billion from the Capital Assistance for
High Speed Rail Corridors and Intercity Passenger Rail Service

Latham may be following pressure from those who feel that
passenger rail won't benefit them. Remind him that once
passenger rail is established east and west, a north-south route
will be possible between Des Moines and Minneapolis, right
through his district. That will bring tourism dollars to Clear
Lake, economic growth to Mason City, which has lost
manufacturing jobs in the past five years, and better
opportunities for north Iowans to travel easily to Minneapolis
and Des Moines.

Federal support for intercity passenger rail is essential to
restoring rail service to Iowa. Thousands of Iowans support the
expansion of Midwest rail service. Rep. Latham's amendment could
delay our progress on these important projects. That is why Rep.
Latham needs to hear from you right now!

This is urgent - please call Congressman Latham's DC office at
202-225-5476 and ask him to support Iowa passenger rail by
withdrawing his amendment to the FY10 Transportation
appropriations bill. Afterwards, please send an email to the
Congressman to tell him that connecting Iowa to the Midwest rail
network is important for our state and to you personally, and
ask him to support fully funding rail service in the future!


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More promising signs for passenger rail in Iowa

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jul 23, 2009 at 11:03:23 AM CDT

This Sunday Governor Chet Culver is taking a train tour to promote passenger rail in eastern Iowa, similar to the trip he took through western Iowa last month. After the jump I've posted a news release from the governor's office with details on his planned stops in Iowa City, West Liberty, Durant, Walcott and Moline, Illinois, where the Quad Cities' passenger rail depot will be located. From there Culver will travel to Chicago for the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit on Monday.

The U.S. has ten high-speed rail corridors, and Business Week reported earlier this summer that the Midwestern and California corridors are well-positioned to receive some of the $8 billion in stimulus funds allocated for high-speed rail. A Federal Railroad Administration official spoke favorably of cooperation among eight midwestern governors, including Culver.

Competition for the stimulus rail funding will be stiff. The T4America blog reported last week that 40 states submitted a combined $102 billion in high-speed rail proposals for the $8 billion in stimulus funds. The overwhelming response from states prompted the House Appropriations Committee to allocate $4 billion toward high-speed rail in the coming year. The Obama administration had asked for $1 billion.

The Culver administration deserves praise for recognizing the benefits of passenger rail routes through Iowa to Chicago. The I-JOBS program included $3 million for expanding passenger rail service, and Iowa also has allocated a portion of our transportation funds from the stimulus bill to rail. These investments will help secure future federal funding for the projects. Rail links will benefit many Iowans who cannot drive (including a growing number of senior citizens) as well as those who prefer not to drive or fly.

Iowa Republicans may mock Culver's commitment to passenger rail, but governors from both parties recognize the economic benefits that strong rail networks can bring. Those who argue that we cannot afford to invest in passenger rail during an economic recession should read this piece by BruceMcF, one of the best transportation bloggers around.

UPDATE: From the Iowa Global Warming Campaign:

Call Tom Latham NOW and tell him to support Passenger Rail in Iowa. He is trying to strip $3billion! 202-225-5476

LATE UPDATE: From Friday's Des Moines Register:

Plans for a study needed to revive Des Moines-to-Chicago passenger train service have been put on a side track at least until next year, state officials say.

But Amtrak passenger train service to Dubuque and the Quad Cities appears likely in about two years.

Amtrak had been expected to complete a feasibility study sometime this year for twice-daily train service between Des Moines and Chicago. But the railroad has been deluged with requests for studies elsewhere in the wake of a national push to expand passenger train service, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in Chicago.

As a result, Amtrak won't finish the Des Moines study until money issues are resolved to ensure service between Chicago and Iowa City, Magliari said. An Amtrak report in 2008 suggested an Iowa City passenger train could start operating if about $32 million could be obtained to upgrade Iowa tracks and signals. [...]

Iowa Department of Transportation Director Nancy Richardson said this week she hopes money issues for the Iowa City train can be resolved by early next year, which would permit work to completed on the Des Moines train study. The state agency is seeking federal economic-stimulus money for the Iowa City project.

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Events coming up during the rest of July (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 11:03:14 AM CDT

The RAGBRAI riders are enjoying some relatively cool weather this week, although last night's rain may have been unpleasant for campers. If you're riding and have any anecdotes to share, post them here.

Details on other events going on around the state are after the jump. As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of something I've left out.

Occasionally I put a river clean-up on these event calendars, so I wanted to let the Bleeding Heartland community know about this opportunity:

The Iowa Whitewater Coalition today announced the Clean Rivers Team Stewardship Program (CRTSP) -- a mini-grant program to help fund local river clean-up activities across Iowa.
Any community group or organization in Iowa is welcome to apply for a grant from the CRTSP for the purpose of paying expenses related to river clean-up activities. Grants are limited to a maximum of $500.
Details are available at www.iowawhitewater.org and a Letter of Application may be submitted at any time to Iowa Whitewater Coalition, PO Box 65453, West Des Moines, IA 50265. Questions can be addressed by Peter Komendowski at 319-269-8493.

UPDATE: Added details on the Iowa Politics forum for Republican gubernatorial candidates (July 22) after the jump.

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Culver holding rail event in DSM on Saturday

by: IowaGlobalWarming

Thu May 07, 2009 at 17:07:12 PM CDT

This should be a good event and a great way to show support for passenger rail service across Iowa. From the Gov's office:

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver will mark National Train Day this Saturday by bringing the Governor’s Train Day Special from Valley Junction in West Des Moines into downtown Des Moines, where he will hold a public event with local leaders and transportation officials promoting the benefits of passenger rail to the state, and read a proclamation declaring National Train Day in Iowa.
“Restoring passenger rail service to some of Iowa’s largest cities has been one of my key priorities as governor,” said Governor Culver.  “I look forward to leading this special train into Des Moines on Saturday, and highlighting the economic benefits of passenger rail to our state.  I invite Iowans to come to downtown Des Moines Saturday and celebrate National Train Day in Iowa.”
National Train Day is designed to highlight the need for expanded passenger rail service across the country.  Iowa currently is served by two passenger trains – the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief – both of which serve southern Iowa.  Efforts have been taken in recent years to bring passenger rail service back to other portions of the state, with current proposals to bring service to Dubuque, the Quad Cities and Iowa City and longer term plans to bring service to other communities such as Des Moines and West Des Moines.
To help spur efforts, Governor Culver’s signature legislative accomplishment – the I-JOBS Initiative -- includes $10 million for multi-modal transportation projects in Iowa, including $3 million for expanded passenger rail service in the state.  In addition, the Iowa Department of Transportation will be competing for federal passenger rail funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  All of these steps position Iowa to work with Illinois and Amtrak to bring new passenger rail lines to the state that connect more Iowa communities with Chicago.
The Governor’s Train Day Special is being provided thanks to the generous efforts of the Iowa Interstate Railroad, Ltd., and logistical support has been provided by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The Governor’s event will coincide with the Downtown Farmers Market, a popular summer event that features locally made goods and products.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
WHAT:               Governor Culver will celebrate National Train Day by leading the Governor’s Train Day Special for a special ceremony in Downtown Des Moines
WHERE:             Outside Des Moines Historic Depot
                           4th Street South of Court Avenue
                           Des Moines, IA
WHEN:                10:00am

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24 hours of Passenger Rail

by: IowaGlobalWarming

Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 15:31:09 PM CDT

The last 24 hours have been quite exciting here at the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC). Not very long ago in the state of Illinois ELPC was able to successfully lobby, advocate, and coalition build along the need for the state to increase it's funding for Passenger Rail. then-State Senator Obama would meet on occassion with our executive board to talk about how the Illinois Legislature could help in efforts to combat climate change and expand mass-transit. Sot it was to no suprise to anyone in our office when President Obama said:

"We need to connect Des Moines to Chicago with high-speed rail all across the Midwest."

It was then that we received an interview request from KCCI to get our thoughts on President Obama's blurb on Passenger rail in Iowa.

Andrew Snow one of our Policy Advocates at ELPC and Campaign Director for the Iowa Global Warming Campaign, interviewed by Katie Piper on the the Rail matter. The story ran as the top story on Wednesday 10pm broadcast.


This morning the Des Moines Register had a guest columnist from the Greater Des Moines Partnership whom we have been working closely to join us in our vision for Passenger Rail in Iowa. Michael Kulik chair of the "Transit 2030 Task Force" gave his view on the need for High-Speed Passenger Rail service in Iowa. His column can be viewed here:


Then we get word from our dear friends at the Iowa Environmental Council on the dates for the Iowa-DOT public open meetings. As follows is the schedule provided by IEC:


Here is the new challenge for everyone. In the past week we have sent over 700 emails to Governor Culver and State legislators about the need to expand and fund Passenger Rail in the state of Iowa. We are now moving to the 2nd phase of our organizing and we want all our Rail supporters to participate in the public meetings. Let the DOT know that their priorities should include funding for Passenger Rail.  If you are planning to attend any of these meetings, want further information on the Passenger Rail initiatives throughout the midwest and here in Iowa feel free to contact our offices.

I can be reached via email at cucles@iowaglobalwarming.org or you can call and ask for Christian at the ELPC offices 515-244-3113

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Congressman Braley on Obama's Rail Plan

by: IowaGlobalWarming

Fri Apr 17, 2009 at 17:05:52 PM CDT

CONTACT: Jeff Giertz/ Nicole Buseman

jeff.giertz@mail.house.gov/ nicole.buseman@mail.house.gov

202.226.4026 / 202.226.0572

Braley Praises President Obama's Rail Plan

Proposal could have positive impact on eastern Iowa Amtrak plans

Washington, DC - Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement after President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood unveiled their plan for high-speed passenger rail today:

"President Obama's passenger rail plan is good news for proponents of bringing Amtrak to eastern Iowa.  His plan, combined with the huge passenger rail investment in the Economic Recovery Act and passenger rail investments called for in the President's budget, will help speed the advance of passenger rail to cities in eastern Iowa and beyond.

"Today, the President stressed a long-term goal of comprehensive high speed rail systems.  In order to reach this goal, the President noted that we must support passenger rail lines that are 'ready to go' and will create jobs now.  

"The Chicago to Quad Cities and Chicago to Dubuque lines are shovel-ready rail projects that will create jobs and economic growth immediately. Both projects have my full support and I hope to see ground broken on these two projects as early links in President Obama's proposed national rail system."

 # #


Jeff Giertz

Communications Director

Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01)

(202) 226-4026 (direct)

(202) 297-6745 (cell)



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Obama announces plans for high-speed rail funding

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Apr 16, 2009 at 19:49:51 PM CDT

LATE UPDATE: This piece by BruceMcF is a must-read: How to build a national high-speed rail system.

President Barack Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a

blueprint for a new national network of high-speed passenger rail lines Thursday, saying such an investment is necessary to reduce traffic congestion, cut dependence on foreign oil and improve the environment.

The president's plan identifies 10 potential high-speed intercity corridors for federal funding, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New England.

It also highlights potential improvements in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor running from Washington to Boston, Massachusetts.

The economic stimulus package included about $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, and Obama is seeking an additional $1 billion each year for high-speed rail in the next five federal budgets.

After the jump I've got more details on how this funding could benefit Iowa.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 435 words in story)
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