A year of study has produced a report unveiled this week on the prospects for passenger-train service between Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and the Amanas. Josh Shamberger is head of the Iowa City – Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Shamberger says the report found light-rail service is feasible, and would be a good opportunity for the southern half of the region studied, the Johnson County half. A couple of years ago railroad enthusiasts and others arranged for an 11-car passenger train to shuttle football fans from the Coralville Mall to games at the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, and Shamberger says expanding that “Hawkeye Express” could be part of the plan for a regional light-rail system.
The report says there’s enough demand to start up special excursion trips and “vintage excursion service,” renting equipment like the Hawkeye Express cars and using them to shuttle passengers to and from events going on along the rail corridor. Shamberger says it can be done and would be “pretty affordable.” But regional light-rail wouldn’t have to depend on special events for its survival.
The study finds enough demand now to justify planning daily commuter-rail service between North Liberty and Iowa City, from the University of Iowa campus through Coralville and into Iowa City. He says that service could offer a 20-minute nonstop ride to commuters that would be very competitive with other forms of transportation, even though the trains would be limited to going about 30 miles an hour.
The report says it’s not currently feasible to run high-speed commuter rail service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, however, as it would require about 70-Million dollars to fix up the rail beds and buy train equipment. Shamberger says while there’s not enough demand for that right now, there may be in the future.” He says while 70-Million would be a big investment, it would cost about 400-Million dollars to add one more lane to Interstate-380 in the same area.
The Cedar Iowa River Rail Transit Project study began a year ago, as one of the “Fifteen in Five” community-planning items announced a year and-a-half ago.
Related web sites:
15 in 5 Initiative