Funding awarded for passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Funding awarded for passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City

IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- A huge announcement was made for Iowa travel Monday, with $230 million being awarded to get started on passenger railway service from Chicago to Iowa City.  The line will eventually reach Des Moines and farther west. 

After previously applying for federal funding to get Amtrak service up and running her in Iowa City and being denied, folks here are certainly excited about this opportunity.  Not only will it bring new chances for travel for residents and students here, but also the chance to grow business with economic development.  

"One of the ways we can help our larger employers is to attract the knowledge workers that success with larger business is predicated on today.  We like thinks that improve the quality of life.  Improving the quality of life to attract employers and workers, and all of that, is a wonderful thing in an economy where it hasn't been easy the last couple of years," said Nancy Quellhorst, Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce president and C.E.O.

Early projections put nearly a quarter million people riding Amtrak to and from Chicago each year.  The new rail service will use existing tracks and station houses, which will be upgraded to accommodate travelers and the nearly 80 mile-per-hour passenger trains.

"There are some environmental requirements. There will be the track upgrade.  There will be the acquisition of the three stations that will have to be purchased and/or upgraded.  there will be acquisition of equipment, like the rolling stock. Those kinds of things will be the next stages," Quellhorst said.

Making all those improvements will take some time.  So the Amtrak rail service won't be up and running until 2015. 

Once the service gets going, Amtrak plans to offer two daily round trips to the windy city.  A one-way ride will take about 5 hours.  No word yet on ticket prices.

Additional information:

The project is expect to create nearly 600 jobs a year for the first four years.  Each train can accommodate 230 passengers and will offer seating and food service.  And the new rail service could increase local business activity by up to $25 million a year.

KWWL Reporter:  Kera Mashek

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