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Chicago to Moline Passenger Rail Advocates Push for Federal Intervention

Michelle O'Neill
An Iowa Interstate Railroad engine tows a freight train through Moline, IL.

The mayor of Moline, Illinois Senator Mike Halpin, and State Representative Gregg Johnson are fed up with Iowa Interstate Railroad holding up passenger rail in the Quad Cities.

This morning, they announced they've asked the Illinois Department of Transportation and Amtrak to request intervention from the Surfact Transportation Board.

Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati says Iowa Interstate Railroad has been what she calls, "moving the goalposts," in negotiations to allow Amtrak to use its tracks for passenger rail service between Chicago and Moline. She says in recent years, talks with the railroad were positive.

"And even this last September, IDOT spoke at the Illinois Municipal League and very openly declared that this line to Moline was of utmost priority. And, you know, every other line was going to sort of fall in line behind that. So they declared that publicly because the signs were there. And recently things have changed."

IMG_1519 johnson HALPIN rayapati passenger rail cropped.JPG
Michelle O'Neill
IL State Rep. Gregg Johnson and Moline Mayor Sangeetha Rayapati listen as IL State Sen. Mike Halpin talks about the lack of progress between the IL DOT and Iowa Interstate Railroad.

Halpin says under federal law, passenger rail takes precedence over freight. And for years, he's been willing to give Iowa Interstate "the benefit of the doubt." But now he says it is no longer bargaining in good faith.

"They're taking this opportunity to try to extract as many public dollars into their private coffers. As they can asking the taxpayer to rebuild their entire railroad from the ground up. But unfortunately, for Iowa Interstate they've mistaken our commitment to this project for desperation. They must believe that that we will pay anything. But I can tell you now, speaking for myself, I will not."

About a year ago, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos and US Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth asked the head of the Illinois DOT to "finalize an agreement on the scope and costs" of construction for the Quad Cities to Chicago passenger rail route.

Officially, Michelle's title is WVIK News Editor. She does everything there is to do in the newsroom and whatever may be needed around the radio station.
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