Wasn’t the passenger train from Chicago to Moline supposed to be here by now?
That’s what U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Moline) certainly want to know. On Friday, they sent a letter to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS), urging them 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.
Without an agreement between IDOT and IAIS, construction will continue to be delayed, jeopardizing federal funding for the project, according to a Friday release.
“We write to express our strong concerns about the lack of progress toward a final agreement between the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) on the infrastructure upgrades needed to begin rail passenger service on the proposed route between Chicago and the Quad Cities in Illinois,” the lawmakers 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,” the letter says. “In 2019, we secured a five-year extension of the project’s federal funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to provide ample time for IDOT and IAIS to negotiate an agreement and for construction to begin on the project.
“If an agreement is not reached soon, construction could be delayed even further, jeopardizing the federal funds for the project,” the trio wrote.
Durbin secured $177 million in federal funding for the project in 2010. The project was delayed for years because former Gov. Bruce Rauner refused to provide state funding for it.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker renewed the state’s commitment to the project by providing $225 million in state funding in 2019, but since then IDOT and IAIS have failed to reach an agreement on the infrastructure upgrades needed for the project.
Durbin, Duckworth, and Bustos have secured repeated extensions of the federal funding, but the current funding extension will expire in 2024 unless IDOT and IAIS reach an agreement so construction can begin. The proposed QC passenger rail route, running between Chicago and downtown Moline, was initially slated to begin service in 2014. A copy of the letter can be found here.