Boosters of a bid to establish train service from Iowa City to Chicago are hoping the governor-elect will accept federal money to expand passenger rail service in eastern Iowa.
“Expanding passenger rail services and investing in freight rail systems provide critical infrastructure for transporting people and goods and commodities,” says Nancy Quellhorst, president and C.E.O. of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce.
Governors in two other states have rejected federal grants for expanded passenger rail service in Ohio and Wisconsin. A key aide to Governor-elect Branstad says Branstad is studying how much the state would have to shell out if passenger rail service to Chicago is extended all the way to Iowa City.
“We’re appreciative for the study that Governor-elect Branstad will undertake and we think that once he sees the data, the data will be there to make a solid case for this,” Quellhorst says.
The Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce website touts the project as a way to “fuel job growth, improve the environment (and) increase tourism.”
“It’s important not only to us as Iowa Citians, but we believe it’s very important to the state,” Quellhorst says. “This is a one-time opportunity to leverage a very small amount to realize some gain for the good of the state and it will not only connect us to the city of Chicago, but it will connect us as Iowans.”
Governor Culver has been a supporter of the project, and the U.S. Transportation Secretary held an event in Iowa City this past October to tout the $230 million dollar federal grant to Iowa for the project.
A Branstad aide says it appears the state would have to subsidize the Iowa City-to-Chicago train service to the tune of at least $3 million a year if every ticket is sold for every trip — and even more if seats go unsold.
Quellhorst made her comments during an Iowa Chamber Alliance news conference earlier this month.