MOLINE, Ill. — A project to bring passenger rail to the Quad Cities is still off track after more than a decade of anticipation.
Back in 2008, Former Iowa and Illinois US Senators reached out to Amtrak, asking them to start planning on bringing passenger rail back to the Quad Cities. Millions of Dollars have since been allocated for the rail project, and that money has since sat there. Its original hope was to be up and running by the fall of 2014, said former WQAD News 8 reporter Jonathan Ketz, in an article he wrote about the potential Amtrak merger.
"I wish that I could tell my community that we have a deal," City of Moline Mayor Sangeetha Ryapati said at a Monday, Feb. 27 press conference.
The meeting was held at the Moline Police Department, where Mayor Rayapati, along with Illinois State Senator Mike Halpin and Illinois Representative Gregg Johnson, said they still support the possible addition of Amtrak in Moline.
State and city leaders said at the press conference that Iowa Interstate Railroad, is the only hurdle left in bringing this plan into fruition. In order for Amtrak to come through Moline, Iowa Interstate Railroad, would need to upgrade 55 miles of track, connecting Bureau County to Moline.
"The Iowa interstate railroad appears more interested in corporate welfare and someone else paying the bill for their track improvements than in being a good partner and bringing passenger rail to Moline," Mayor Rayapati said.
"There's always been one common denominator standing in the way of progress. And that is Iowa Interstate Railroad," Sen. Halpin said.
The City of Moline built The Q, located at 1506 River Drive in Moline in anticipation for Amtrak service in downtown Moline, and opened it in 2018. While that's since led to the building of a hotel, pedestrian walkways and other businesses around it, there's still no passenger trains.
Senator Halpin did tell News 8 at the press conference, that there's one possible card state and city leaders can pull. Federal law states that Amtrak can ask, with the support of the Surface Transportation Board and Illinois Dept. of Transportation, to have the Bureau County to Moline tracks made ready for Amtrak service.
“We deserve it, we have waited well over 10 years now, promise has been made and they haven’t been kept," Rep. Johnson said.
President and CEO of Visit Quad Cities Dave Herrel released a statement fully in support of Quad Cities rail service, even if the measures and solutions aren't apparent yet.
“We are fully confident that the benefits of adding a rail route from Chicago to Moline will add tremendous value and drive economic development benefits, positively impact tourism, create jobs, and bolster connectivity which is a recommendation within our Tourism Master Plan. In our destination’s SWOT analysis passenger rail is identified as a weakness for our market. We are still hopeful for an agreement between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Iowa Interstate (IAIS) Railroad but if that is not possible, we support other measures and solutions at the federal, state, and local levels to make passenger rail happen for Quad Citizens and potential visitors. This several decades conversation needs to get resolved one way or another for all parties involved. Visit Quad Cities is grateful to Sen. Mike Halpin, Rep. Gregg Johnson, and City of Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati for continuing to push for accountability for a project that should happen. Do we want to be in a region that continues to kick the can down the road or take action to make this place the very best it can be? That is the fundamental question.”
Quad Cities Chamber CEO LaDrina Wilson also expressed its support for securing the project, but also ideas for what to use the funds for if the project is unable to move forward.
"The Chamber has been a longtime advocate in supporting and securing state and federal funding for passenger rail. We've done so because we see this as an opportunity to invite people from all over the country to experience the greatness of the QC. It's unfortunate that our efforts to support this public-private partnership have not produced the outcome we'd hoped for. If we are unable to move forward with passenger rail, we will advocate for the secured state and federal dollars to be used in our community for infrastructure and placemaking enhancements."
"The Quad Cities Chamber's next step will be to meet with the Illinois Department of Transportation (DOT) on our advocacy trip to Springfield on March 7," said Rhonda Ludwig, Director, Government Affairs. "We will ask for the DOT's continued support to take our concerns forward."
As for what's next, There's still no word when or if this project will happen, but state and city leaders said they'll continue to push the Iowa Interstate Railroad to upgrade the tracks.
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