The VisionIowa’s rail network offers a great opportunity for passenger rail service, connecting Iowa’s largest urban areas to Chicago and potential other Midwest metropolitan centers. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), working with the state of Illinois, Iowa cities, planning organizations, and advocacy groups, has created a bold new vision.
The vision will create a passenger rail network that connects Iowans to each other and the country, and makes Iowa a more attractive place to live, work and visit.
The vision views passenger rail as a means to larger national and regional goals. The vision seeks to integrate passenger rail into the broader multimodal transportation system and make it a significant contributor to improved mobility, economic competitiveness, community revitalization, and reduced fuel use and emissions. It is a vision where travel by train is comfortable, efficient and reliable, and leaves a light footprint on the environmental landscape.
The vision uses an incremental approach to implementation — to increase service over time, based on market demand, operational feasibility, and funding.
Passenger Rail Plans
Iowa currently has the benefit of two national passenger rail lines that run from Chicago to the West Coast crossing the southern part of the state. However, Iowa’s largest communities do not have convenient connections to passenger rail alternatives to Chicago, Omaha, Minneapolis, and Kansas City. Existing freight rail lines in Iowa make this achievable.
When Illinois developed a plan to bring passenger rail to Iowa’s borders at the Quad Cities and Dubuque, expanded passenger rail serving more of Iowa’s population became feasible. The creation of the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program (HSIPR) by the federal government, makes expanded passenger rail achievable . The HSIPR established a competitive grant program to fund up to 80 percent of capital expenditure.
The ultimate passenger rail network provides rail service connecting Iowans to major cities, regional destinations, other transportation connections and many other communities not typically served by commercial air or current passenger rail.
The immediate goal in the first phase of the vision is to achieve passenger rail service from Iowa City (via the Quad Cities) to Chicago and Dubuque to Chicago, with later phases exploring further expansion.