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Passenger rail or not? The Quad Cities Chamber wants your signature of support

The Quad Cities Chamber wants the community to show its support for an Amtrak stop in Moline. After years of delays, leaders hope the petition will spark action.

MOLINE, Ill. — The Quad Cities Chamber has released a new petition, calling for support of a passenger rail stop in Moline. 

After years of delays, the chamber and Visit Quad Cities say a strong showing of community support could be what tips the project over that long-awaited finish line. 

"Business, industry, higher ed, tourism, anything that's connected to trying to move the Quad Cities forward, passenger rail can help accomplish that objective," said Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities. "But unless we get some support, unless we get this moving along, it's just not going to get to the place we need it to be."

You can sign the petition here

Supporters hope keeping the rail stop in the community spotlight will help prevent apathy. 

"After a while, too much talk and no action is not good for anybody," Harrell said. "You sort of become a little apathetic. And if you don't feel like it's moving, then you lose interest." 

Within days of the petition going live, Facebook comments were mixed, with many arguing the railroad would never become a reality. Others asked for the money to be spent elsewhere. 

But Harrell disagrees. 

"There's always going to be naysayers," he said. "I think the I-74 Bridge is a testament to that. That took 30 years to get done. Well, if we don't continue to talk about that as a community, and if we just stalled that out, well, that might have (ever) happened." 

It's been a never-ending problem for the Quad Cities. In order to bring Amtrak to the area, a 55-mile stretch of rail needs to be upgraded. That requires cooperation between the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Iowa Interstate Railroad and the Federal Railroad Administration. 

Federal funding for the upgrades was secured in 2010. Since then, state money was pledged toward the project, as well as dollars from the federal infrastructure bill.  

RELATED: Federal funding includes Quad Cities Amtrak project

With the promise of an Amtrak stop on the horizon, a hotel, parking, pedestrian walkway and more have all been constructed in downtown Moline. But the project has been seemingly frozen.

A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by News 8 in November 2021 shows the Illinois Department of Transportation received 'engineering files' from the Iowa Interstate Railroad.

Emails from January 2021 show Illinois DOT Project Manager Elliot Ramos received plans from IAIS in mid-December 2020. The plans have not been made public, nor were they a part of IDOT's response to News 8. 

In an email between Ramos and Melissa Hatcher of the Federal Railroad Administration in January 2021, Ramos said "We have our review underway and have already encountered some issues that we will need to resolve with the railroad before we transmit to FRA for your review."

The railroad owns the line from Wyanet in Bureau County to Moline that would be needed if there are going to be passenger trains coming to the Quad Cities. The Iowa Interstate Railroad doesn't have passenger trains on those tracks right now. There would need to be upgrades on that 55-mile stretch if there are going to be passenger trains coming to the Quad Cities. 

RELATED: More train traffic could come to Davenport's riverfront

Hatcher responded by saying she "Expected some back and forth between IDOT and IAIS before the files are transmitted to FRA. If you could give me a heads up at some point when you think FRA may receive those files," she would greatly appreciate it, according to documents. 

The FOIA request asked for all written and email communication between the two parties between Jan. 1 and October 2021. The last email between the two parties, according to the FOIA response, was on Jan. 13, 2021. 

In a phone conversation with Ramos in December 2021, Ramos said he was "not at liberty to say" what was going on. 

"IDOT continues to be in active negotiations with the Iowa Interstate Railroad to reach agreement on the scope of improvements needed to bring passenger rail service to Moline and the Quad Cities. We remain committed to reaching agreement as soon as possible," IDOT Passenger Rail & Transit Communications Manager Scott Speegle said in an email to News 8. 

Leaders with the IAIS have not responded to a request for comment. 

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