A group of Iowa cities is exploring the possibility of subsidizing Amtrak train service if the state decides against picking up the entire tab. The federal government is awarding $230 million for passenger rail service from Chicago through the Quad Cities to Iowa City by 2015. Iowa’s operating cost share is $3 million annually, an amount Governor Terry Branstad says the state can’t afford.
City leaders from Iowa City, Des Moines, Dubuque and the Quad Cities met last week with Amtrak and Iowa D.O.T. officials to discuss other options. Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek says the cities could partner with the state to foot the bill. Iowa City’s portion would be between $300,000 and $400,000.
“We believe we can cover that, especially with the cooperation of the areas around Iowa City, our partners at the University of Iowa and other stakeholders,” Hayek said. Iowa City leaders, however, have not yet committed to spending the money. Hayek believes the leaders of the other cities involved are willing to finance the venture.
Although the Amtrak line would connect Chicago to the Quad Cities and Iowa City, there’s talk of eventually extending the passenger rail service to Des Moines and having a route to Dubuque.