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$230 million approved for Chicago-Iowa City passenger rail


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has awarded the Iowa and Illinois departments of transportation $230 million to initiate intercity passenger rail service on a route from Chicago to Iowa City via the Quad Cities, Gov. Chet Culver announced today.

“The Green Line between Chicago to Iowa City – and, in the near future, on to Des Moines and to western Iowa – which has been funded today in an extraordinarily tough competition with passenger rail proposals across America, will set a new national standard for reliable, cost-effective, fuel-efficient passenger rail service in the United States,” Culver said in a press release. “Today’s announcement will also inspire efforts to establish new passenger rail from Chicago to Dubuque and points westward from there.”

Twenty rail project applications from 10 states totaling about $7.8 billion were submitted to the FRA. Funds available in this round of the program were $2.1 billion.

The 219.5-mile route will provide twice-daily, round-trip service at maximum speeds of 79 mph, and have an expected trip time of less than five hours. The Amtrak trains will operate on a route that begins at Chicago’s Union Station and travels on the BNSF Railway Co.’s line to Wyanet, Ill., and then the Iowa Interstate Railroad’s line from Wyanet to Iowa City.

Each train can accommodate 230 passengers and offers coach seating and food service. First-year ridership is projected to be 246,800 people. New stations will be established at Geneseo and Moline, Ill., and Iowa City.

The Illinois and Iowa departments of transportation submitted a joint $248 million application under the FRA’s High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program. The total cost of the project is $310 million; the federal grant will provide $230 million. Each state will be required to provide a prorated share of the required match, based on the share of investment in each state.  

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