Amtrak Funding Safe

Quad Cities - Moline Dispatch / Rock Island Argus

A new agreement has been reached that protects rail service funding for Quad-Cities-to-Chicago Amtrak service and a multi-modal station in Moline.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said an agreement reached on funding the government through fiscal year 2011 protects nearly $400 million in federal funding for eight Illinois transportation projects targeted for rescission in the House Republican’s plan.

His press secretary, Christina Mulka, on Tuesday said U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) and U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) came to the agreement with the White House. Both houses are expected to vote on the agreement later this week and Sen. Durbin does not expect any changes, she said.

Included in the funding is $230 million for a Quad-Cities-to-Chicago Amtrak route, scheduled for completion in 2015, that reportedly would create 588 jobs a year for the first four years of design and construction. Once started, the service is expected to increase business activity at $25 million a year, according to a news release from Sen. Durbin.

Also in the agreement is $10 million for the Moline Multimodal station, which would serve as the local stop for Amtrak service. Construction of the station is expected to generate nearly 750 construction jobs and retain or create 1,100 private sector jobs, according to the release.

An additional $47 million in private investment is expected to come to the Quad-Cities as a result of the transit oriented development centered on the Amtrak station.

Earlier this month, Moline Mayor Don Welvaert and Renew Moline board chairman Tom Robinson wrote letters to federal legislators seeking support of Amtrak and stressing its economic impact on the Quad-Cities. Renew Moline executive director Jim Bowman said no one gave up when House Republicans first proposed to rescind grants and programs supporting Amtrak, such as TIGER II.

"We continued to push and push and ask for consideration," he said, adding that even in times when spending cuts by the federal government are necessary, there is still a role and need for public improvement and investment.

"Sen. Durbin really led the fight for reinstatement of the rescission. My understanding is he and his staff lobbied hard with the rail coalition and made passenger rail an issue and the Quad-Cities a top priority," Mr. Bowman said.

Mayor Welvaert said Tuesday's announcement was positive news, especially for the Quad City Passenger Rail Coalition which has advocated such service for years.

"We do hope the passenger rail dollars stay in the budget because it is an economic development tool as well as an excellent amenity for the Quad-City community," he said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Josh Kauffman said progress on the Chicago-Quad Cities rail corridor and the Moline Station remains unaffected. "IDOT is continuing to move forward with these projects as planned," he said.

Sen. Durbin, in a released statement, said the agreement is good news for several communities in Illinois that have planned and secured millions in private investment in anticipation of the funding.

“Withholding these federal funds would have stopped eight important projects dead in their tracks while killing hundreds of Illinois jobs in the process," he said. "I will continue working with the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, and the Illinois Department of Transportation to see that these funds are obligated as soon as possible in order to protect them from any future rescission attempts.”

In a March letter, Sen. Durbin urged Secretary LaHood to obligate as soon as possible nearly $400 million in Illinois transportation funding. Obligating – making a legal commitment to allow a project to move forward – the funding would have likely kept eight Illinois projects safe from rescission under the House Republican’s 2011 Budget plan. The other projects are in Englewood, Wadsworth, Chicago, Barrington, Peoria and Grundy County.