In Iowa, Another Midwest HSR Plan in Jeopardy

Will Iowa join Ohio and Wisconsin in rejecting federal funds for passenger rail?

Republican state legislators recently introduced a budget proposal that does not include the matching funds that were supposed to be Iowa’s contribution to a high-speed rail line connecting its largest cities to Chicago. The federal government had committed $230 of the $310 million for lines in Illinois and Iowa through a TIGER grant. The state of Iowa had committed $10 million to the project.

A rendering of the Moline, Illinois station that would be part of the planned corridor from Chicago to Iowa. If Iowa legislators pull the plug on their state's commitment, this station would be the terminus. Image: ##http://t4america.org/blog/2011/01/06/could-another-new-passenger-rail-line-be-facing-the-ax/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+transportationforamerica+(Transportation+For+America+(All))## Transportation for America##

Some observers have downplayed the extent of the threat. But, drawing on lessons from recent train fiascoes in Midwest, Transportation for America, is sounding the alarm:

It’s imperative that the Iowa legislature and Governor Branstad follow through on their state’s commitment to build this valuable new service. Following the path of I-80 and I-88, it would hit all the major population centers of Iowa on it’s way to and from Chicago.

Where the story on this project differs from similar recent stories in Wisconsin and Ohio of grants going back to Washington is that this project spans two states for an interstate rail line. Illinois will be able to keep their share of the grant, which is larger since the bulk of the route spans their state, but what will happen to the route? Will it simply stop at the border at the new Moline multimodal hub? What about the future of a Omaha/Des Moines/Iowa City connection to Chicago? Will it bypass important Iowa cities?

The legislative session hasn’t started yet, so it may be premature to jump to any conclusions yet as the Iowa Chamber said, but as the recent cuts in Wisconsin and Ohio showed us, it’s important that these leaders hear from supporters early and often — long before a decision is made. And incoming Governor Terry Branstad has thus far pledged to keep the issue nonpartisan and examine the project fairly and honestly. He needs to be held to that promise.

Transportation for America is recommending Iowa residents contact their elected representatives.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington outlines a “social contract” for cyclists. And also in D.C., Wash Cycle tries to get a read on how the new mayoral administration of Vince Gray will affect the city’s progress on bike infrastructure.

  • Yay! More money for actual HSR, in California!

  • Brian

    If the HSR line to St. Louis can cross the river into another state, I don’t see why the HSR line to Iowa couldn’t. It just may now end in the Quad Cities, only barely entering Iowa, instead.

  • It’s possible, but Amtrak-plus to Quad Cities is even more pointless than Amtrak-plus to Des Moines.

  • Tsuyoshi

    I would like to see more high speed rail, but I had no idea we were building it in Iowa. This seems like a waste of money. The priority in that area should really be a Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago route. I find it mind-boggling that there would be a stop in the Quad Cities… there will never be enough ridership to justify that. I suppose you have an impossible time getting a rational funding distribution approved by Congress though.

  • Patrick

    this isn’t a HSR line, its an extension of the existing Illinois Amtrak system and will be running at a max speed of 79 mph to the Quad Cities in 2012 even if Iowa refuses its share.

  • Wes

    As someone who used to live in Iowa City and travel to Chicago about twice a month. I would have loved this. I know there are a lot of college students from Illionis/chicago area that could have definitely benefited from this.

  • David

    Or they could have ridden the bus. Or carpooled. There is no way the ridership of a Des Moines–> Chicago route justifies the cost. Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis is the only midwestern HSR (and maybe Chicago-St. Louis and the Ohio Corridor (Cinci->Cleveland, maybe to Detroit) that makes sense. At least those trains (Chicago to Milwaukee especially) are full. Heck, even the train I took from St. Paul to Milwaukee on a random day in summer was full. Des Moines though? nope.

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