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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

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 […]

Ohio, Wisc. Rail Money to be Transferred to 13 Other States

|
Ohio’s and Wisconsin’s loss will be 13 other states’ gain. U.S. Department of Transportation announced this afternoon that nearly $1.2 billion in passenger rail money will be withdrawn from the states of Ohio and Wisconsin at the behest of their incoming governors. The money will be transferred to other states to support “high speed rail […]

As Deadline Approaches, Amtrak’s Indy-Chicago Line Faces Cuts

|
Notices may soon start appearing at train stations around the United States warning of possible service disruptions as states struggle to finalize funding agreements with Amtrak. All “state-supported” Amtrak routes — those shorter than 750 miles — are up against an October 16 deadline to come up with state funds to support passenger rail operations […]

Estranged Bedfellows: Trains and Conservatism

|
It’s not really clear how this fits with an agenda of fiscal conservatism, but for some reason passenger rail has become a scapegoat for the political right. From New Jersey to Ohio and Wisconsin, Republican executives are calling off passenger rail projects with great fanfare. Perhaps the most flamboyant opponent is Wisconsin Governor-Elect Scott Walker, […]

Freight Rail, Streetcars Are Tops in Stimulus’ TIGER Chase

|
The Obama administration today announced the winners of $1.5 billion stimulus in highly competitive stimulus grants under the program known as Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER. Southeastern and midwestern freight rail projects were the day’s biggest winners, with urban streetcar projects also making a big splash. Freight rail in Chicago, where the CREATE […]