Residents in several eastern Iowa towns are making a final push to get statehouse support for a high-speed passenger rail line from Chicago to Iowa City via the Quad Cities.
Governor Branstad is critical of the plan, which requires Iowa to invest $20 million over the next few years. But State Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, says the window to snag federal dollars is closing. “We have the funds in our gaming reserve fund, which is set up especially for infrastructure in this state. The DOT tells us that for every dollar we invest in passenger rail, we’re going to get a $2.37 return from the federal government’s investment,” McCoy said Friday during a stop in Cedar Rapids.
The federal government would fund $230 million of Iowa’s passenger rail line. The Iowa Senate has passed legislation for the funding, but it remains stalled in the House.
Branstad and other Republicans have said the state can’t afford to pay for the annual operating costs. “When you look at what we’re getting in return, it’s a very small investment,” McCoy said. “That’s why we have public infrastructure dollars and our gambling dollars in our gaming funds. There’s no way the state couldn’t meet that obligation of $3 million annually for operating costs.”
Governor Branstad has also expressed skepticism about the passenger rail’s potential ridership numbers.