Advocates of expanding passenger rail service in Iowa say they’re optimistic a proposed Amtrak route between Chicago and Iowa City will receive federal funding by the end of October. 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.

The next round of rail funding includes two- and-a-half billion federal dollars. Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce president Nancy Quellhorst says the federal money does not come without strings. She says the ability to access federal funding is contingent on a 20% match by the state.

State lawmakers have approved and the governor signed a law committing an additional $6.5 million dollars to the cause. Quellhorst says it’s a good investment. “It’s a quality of life issue, it’s a job creation issue, there’s just opportunity to be gained here,” Quellhorst says. She says a Chicago rail route would provide an important link for Iowa City.

“We have a student base that includes 6,000 students (who) hail from that area so it’s a convenience and a safety and environmental issue. It’s not that all things aren’t well in Iowa City. This is just opportunity, “Quellhorst says. The total estimated cost of bringing passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City is about $230-million. The Iowa portion of that amount is about $100-million.

An announcement on the projects that’ll be funded with the new round of federal dollars is expected by the end of October.