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.Continue Reading...