Amtrak Feasibility Study of Passenger Rail Service from Quad Cities to Iowa City Released

AMES, Iowa – A study conducted by Amtrak on behalf of the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) concerning the feasibility of passenger rail service from the Quad Cities to Iowa City on a route originating at Chicago was released during a news conference in Iowa City.

Annual ridership on the full route is estimated at about 187,000 passengers, based on two daily round-trips and if improvements are made allowing maximum speeds of 79 mph. The states of Iowa and Illinois would share the capital investment costs and the estimated annual Amtrak operating contract expense of about $6 million. The estimated cost to upgrade the railroad infrastructure in this example is $54.9 million.

“Regional intercity passenger rail service is a positive alternative to highway and air travel. Rail service has tremendous advantages in terms of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign sources of oil; slowing the growth of highway congestion and associated pollution; energy conservation; and lifestyle enhancement through improved mobility for persons who either cannot or simply do not want to drive or fly,” said Iowa Governor Chet Culver. “That’s why passenger rail service has a bright future in America and why we are going to have to give it a higher priority in moving people in Iowa.”

“In light of escalating fuel prices, congested interstates and the environmental impacts of highway transportation, modal opportunities such as rail passenger service need to be seriously examined,” said Iowa DOT Director Nancy Richardson.

“This project is an excellent example of the type of public-private partnership that will be essential to sustaining and expanding this country’s multi-modal transportation network. The Iowa DOT appreciates Amtrak’s interest in expanding rail passenger service in Iowa, and is anxious to join them, the Iowa Interstate Railroad and Illinois Department of Transportation in determining the next steps to making this route a reality,” Richardson added.

“State-supported routes are the fastest growing part of our business. We look forward to working with Iowa and Illinois to meet with the host railroads and take the next steps to initiate this service,” said Amtrak President and CEO Alex Kummant.

Amtrak has never operated scheduled trains to Iowa City, which lost its Rock Island Railroad passenger rail service in 1970, or the Quad Cities, which lost its Rock Island Railroad service in 1978.

The Amtrak study released today is an addendum to an earlier study and report issued in December 2007 for the Illinois Department of Transportation, analyzing the feasibility of rail passenger service from Chicago to the Illinois Quad Cities. Both reports are available at: www.iowadot.gov/amtrakstudy/.

The Illinois report found the best route between the Quad Cities and Chicago would use a portion of the former Rock Island Railroad, now owned by Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS), from the Quad Cities to a proposed track connection to the BNSF Railway near Wyanet, Ill. The choice of the IAIS/BNSF route is also enhanced by taking advantage of recently improved Amtrak stations at Princeton, Mendota and Naperville, Ill.

A map depicting the preferred routes from Chicago to the Quad Cities and from the Quad Cities to Iowa City can be found at: www.iowadot.gov/amtrakstudy/.

For Amtrak service to reach Iowa City, passenger rail service must first be established to the Quad Cities. The addendum released today specifically examines the feasibility of extending service the 59 miles from the Quad Cities to Iowa City via the Iowa Interstate Railroad.