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Sep 162011

From Green Right Now Reports

Across the country, Americans are finding ways to build a greener future and create immediate employment for workers who desperately need good jobs.

One such project, ready to move from the drawing board to execution is the Chicago-Quad Cities-Iowa City passenger rail line, slated to be funded with $230 million in federal grant money

What High Speed Midwest Rail could look like, if states join regional plans that have won federal funding (red) and complete other routes (blue).

Today the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), praised Iowa’s request to split its portion of the grant for the rail line — the segment from the Quad Cities to Iowa City — so that Illinois can  build the first segment within its borders immediately.

Under the Iowa proposal to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Illinois will be freed to begin construction of track from Chicago to the Quad Cities, putting people to work “building critical infrastructure that responds to America’s changing transportation needs,” according to an ELPC statement.

Meanwhile, Iowa will continue study on the passenger rail plan to determine if it could be extended to Omaha and has asked the FRA to hold its $87 million portion of the grant in reserve.

Such a passenger rail line, from Chicago to Omaha, would forge new territory for passenger rail, connecting people in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska to the hub at Chicago, which is in turn connected to Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Detroit.

The ELPC advocates for additional rail in the Midwest because it would provide green, affordable transportation options for an under served region.

“This is the beginning of a transformative improvement to our nation’s transportation system, giving people a travel option that is good for jobs, good for business, and good for the environment,” said Steve Falck, senior policy advisor for the ELPC.

“In this economic climate, taxpayers will maximize the return on their investment because the costs will never be lower and the jobs never more needed, which is why the states are committing scarce dollars to ensure these critical projects are completed.”

Falck explained that the ELPC would prefer to see the entire rail line under construction all the way to Iowa City, but was hopeful that given more time, Iowa would choose an even more ambitious the rail plan, spanning the entire the state to Omaha.

“Obviously we would have preferred for Iowa to seize this opportunity to transform an $87 million grant into jobs and new rail service. But today’s move is a step in the right direction and we are delighted that Iowa is committing $1 million in matching funds to study the feasibility of expanded service along the Quad Cities-Iowa City-Des Moines-Omaha corridor,” he said.

“Once Iowa studies its rail alternatives and sees the benefits rail brings to the Quad Cities, we are confident it will see the value of extending rail service across the state and will embrace the opportunity to bring rail service to Iowa City. And moreover, Congressman Tom Latham’s seat on the Appropriations Committee will help keep Iowa’s grant safe.”