February 10, 2022

Duckworth, Durbin and Bustos push for completion of Quad-Cities passenger rail

Source: Quad-City Times


Illinois Democratic Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin have joined with U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Moline, in urging the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) to finalize an agreement on the scope and costs of infrastructure upgrades needed so that construction can begin on the long awaited Quad Cities to Chicago passenger rail route.

In order for passenger rail to be possible, an agreement would be needed between IDOT and IAIS that allows Amtrak to operate its trains on rail track owned by IAIS. 

Former Illinois Deputy Secretary of Transportation Doug House said in October that the current rail lines are categorized as Class II and Class III for transporting freight, livestock or cars. A higher class and safety category is needed in order to transport people, he said, and an agreement must be in place in order for construction to begin.

The lawmakers sent a letter Friday to IDOT and IAIS saying that without an agreement in place, a delay in construction could jeopardize federal funding for the project.

"We write to express our strong concerns about the lack of progress toward a final agreement between the Illinois Department of Transportation and Iowa Interstate Railroad on the infrastructure upgrades needed to begin rail passenger service on the proposed route between Chicago and the Quad Cities in Illinois," they wrote. "Residents of the Quad Cities have waited far too long for passenger service to Chicago to become a reality, and we urge both parties to come to an agreement on the scope and costs of the project as soon as possible so that construction can begin.

"After years of unnecessary delays, the last remaining hurdle to construction is an agreement between IDOT and IAIS on the upgrades needed to convert IAIS’ existing freight tracks for passenger service."

Federal funding was first secured in 2010 for $177 million with the plan to begin passenger rail service in 2014. Funding was delayed by former Gov. Bruce Rauner after he assumed office in 2015, but current Gov. J.B. Pritzker renewed the state's financial commitment as part of the Rebuild Illinois capital program.

Construction of a passenger train depot and its accompanying Element Hotel, 316 12th St., Moline, was completed in February 2018. The depot and hotel are collectively called The Q.

In 2019, a five-year extension was granted from the Federal Railroad Administration to provide more time for IDOT and IAIS to negotiate an agreement and for construction to begin. The new passenger route will run on tracks belonging to IAIS between Bureau County and Moline, but the project remains stalled.

"If an agreement is not reached soon, construction could be delayed even further, jeopardizing the federal funds for the project," the lawmakers wrote. "New passenger rail service between Chicago and the Quad Cities will help grow the local economy, create jobs, and connect folks from across our state with new opportunities."

By:  Sarah Hayden