Thursday, December 05, 2013

NARP: New Amtrak Midwest routes advance

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The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) says progress is being made on establishing two new Amtrak routes from the railroad's Chicago hub, one serving the Quad Cities and a second reaching toward Dubuque, Iowa.

Illinois' Department of Transportation and CN are negotiating an infrastructure improvement plan and budget for starting passenger rail service linking Chicago and Rockford, Ill., northwest of Chicago, by the end of 2015, according to NARP's December 2013 membership newsletter, NARP News. An addition to Dubuque, Iowa, just across the Mississippi River, would follow shortly thereafter.

NARP also noted Illinois is "nearing the end of preliminary design" on a second route, the better-known effort to link Chicago and the Quad Cities. Construction on this project is expected to begin early next year by constructing a connection at Wyanet, Ill., linking BNSF's Chicago-Galesburg line used by other Amtrak trains with Iowa Interstate Railroad's line to the Quad Cities.

Revenue Amtrak service for this effort is targeted to begin in December 2015. The project last October officially secured a  $230 million federal grant. 

A multimodal is planned for Moline. The Quad Cities Passenger Rail Coalition (QC Rail), a grassroots advocacy group, hopes to use the Moline station as a starting point for eventual passenger extensions across Iowa, including stops at Iowa City, Des Moines, the state capital, and Omaha, Neb. Omaha currently is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr.