Illinois seeks extension for Quad Cities passenger funding

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QuadCities_Connection_Johnston
An Illinois Zephyr passes the site of a proposed connection near Wyanet, Ill., that would allow passenger service to the Quad Cities.
Bob Johnston

MOLINE, Ill. — A grant for infrastructure necessary to start passenger service between Chicago and the Quad Cities is on the verge of expiring unless the Illinois Department of Transportation is granted a third extension on the funds.

WQAD-TV reports that the department has asked for the extension on the funding, which expires June 30, but has yet to receive a response from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Before service to the Quad Cities (Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa) can begin, a connection must be built between BNSF Railway and Iowa Interstate tracks near Wyanet, Ill. Iowa Interstate’s 50-mile portion of the route will also require other upgrades. [See “Quad Cities Service not dead,” “Passenger,” October 2016 Trains.] The Quad-Cities Times reported in July 2017 that the state had completed a memorandum of understanding with Iowa Interstate to reimburse the railroad for engineering costs associated with determining the necessary improvements. WQAD said the preliminary engineering work by the railroad and state is in progress.

The project’s funding has a lengthy history. A $230 million federal grant, including $177 million for the connection, was approved in 2010. But delays to the project meant it had not begun when Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2014 and put projects throughout the state on hold, pending review. Rauner later approved $45 million in state matching funds to help keep the project alive.

The project has become an issue in the Illinois Republican gubanatorial primary, with Rauner pledging support during a recent campaign appearance in Moline while his challenger, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, told the Quad-Cities Times that the connection “is not a priority project.”

 

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