U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, spoke to state and local officials today about passenger rail service in the state. LaHood says Iowa is in the mix for the $2.5 billion that’s included in the second round of federal rail funding.
LaHood says part of the plan would be to bring high-speed rail through the Quad Cities to Iowa City, and then across Iowa to Nebraska. He says they talked about how Iowa is going to be in the competition for the money. The Chicago to Iowa City and Chicago to Dubuque routes were not in the first round of eight-billion dollars in funding announced in January. LaHood credited state officials for putting six-point-five million dollars toward the proposal.
“One of the things that I would say I’m impressed with is that the legislature passed some match money, which is not true in every region, and certainly not true in every state,” LaHood says, “that really, it helps them and enables them to really compete for the money ’cause they have the match, and it shows the commitment from the state that they’re very interested — it’s not just the governor speaking or some mayor — it’s really the commitment of the state for the matching money.” LaHood was asked if he made any promises to Iowa officials.
LaHood says he doesn’t make promises, because it’s a strong competition for the money, but he says Iowa has shown a “pretty strong commitment” by the legislature approving match money. He was asked if Iowa will be hurt in the competition for the funds because it’s not a large population state.
“No, look….if you build it, they will come, I can cite you examples all over America, if you build a streetcar line, a bus line, any kind of transportation, a highway, a road, high-speed rail, people will use it,” LaHood says. LaHood says it’s going to take at least two decades before the U.S. is connected together by high-speed rail lines.
He says we’re right at the point in this country where we were with the start of the interstate highway system, as “not all the lines were on the map and we didn’t know where all the money was coming from.” But LaHood says there are foreign companies in America that want to find places to locate so they can hire U.S. workers and build “train sets” and rail infrastructure.
“High-speed intercity rail is coming to America,” LaHood said. LaHood was in Des Moines to speak at the North American Super Corridor Coalition Conference.