Office of Rail Transportation

High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program applications
Federal legislation in 2008 and 2009 paved the way to develop a nationwide network of intercity passenger rail routes. The federal funding provided by those legislative actions is distributed through the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program, administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The HSIPR program is designed to assist states in planning and building passenger rail routes that connect communities and economic centers across the country that complement highway, aviation and public transit systems.

Iowa or Iowa/Illinois in a joint venture have submitted applications for a number of planning or construction grants. Information pertaining to the application and the status of each follows.

Chicago to Iowa City via Quad Cities passenger rail service implementation (Funded)

The Iowa and Illinois DOT’s were awarded $230 million in HSIPR funding to establish service on the Chicago to Iowa City (via Quad Cities) route in an announcement made Oct. 28, 2010.

A joint application submitted Aug. 6, 2010, by the Iowa and Illinois DOTs sought $248 million to implement new passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City via the Quad Cities. The grant is funded under the federal High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program.

HSIPR funding will support continued environmental impact analyses, track infrastructure construction and improvements, layover facility construction, equipment acquisition, and station improvements to implement services.

In September 2011, the Iowa DOT, requested the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to split the corridor development grant into two phases. The FRA agreed, and the Illinois DOT is proceeding with planning to initiate the first phase with service from Chicago to Moline, IL.

Iowa DOT is proceeding forward with completion of the Chicago to Council Bluffs-Omaha Regional Passenger Rail Planning Study to obtain additional information on the environmental and service characteristics of the full cross-Iowa corridor.

Chicago to Council Bluffs–Omaha Passenger Rail Planning Study – funded and in process

In January 2010, the FRA announced that the Iowa DOT was awarded $1 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to advance planning studies for the full passenger rail corridor from Chicago to Council Bluffs–Omaha. The grant will be matched with a similar amount of state funding. Any implementation of service on this corridor will be incrementally grown, but this planning study will be a major step in development of passenger rail service along this highly populated corridor through Iowa's midsection.

Chicago to Dubuque – not funded but moving forward

The Illinois DOT in conjunction with the Iowa DOT continues work to implement passenger rail service to Dubuque. A grant application was submitted on Oct. 2, 2009, seeking $140 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 funding under the HSIPR program. Unfortunately, the application was not selected for an award. However, Illinois DOT, as the lead state, continues work on this corridor using capital funding appropriated by the Illinois legislature.

Iowa statewide travel demand model - rail plan component funded and in process

The FRA announced on Oct. 28, 2010, a grant award for $400,000 to support development of a rail component to the Iowa Travel Analysis Model (iTRAM). The module will help in planning where investments are needed in the transportation system to meet demands for both freight and passenger travel.

Existing Amtrak service improvements – completed

In January 2010, the FRA announced that the Iowa DOT was awarded a $17 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for improvements to the BNSF Railway Co.'s rail line that hosts the Amtrak California Zephyr. The track improvements will build four high-speed crossovers that will reduce freight and passenger rail conflicts, reduce congestion and delays.

Platform improvements planned by Amtrak – funded and in process

In March 2009, Amtrak released a list of national capital projects to be funded by $1.3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Iowa's passenger rail stations in six communities across the state will benefit from $402,300 in funding, which will be used to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Amtrak currently operates two long-distance trains through Iowa. During fiscal year 2008, Amtrak served 64,260 passengers (boardings and alightings) at Iowa's six station locations.

Ottumwa Sub-capitalized maintenance – not funded

In August 2009, the Iowa DOT submitted an HSIPR Grant application for nearly $27 million, for track improvements to reduce congestion and delays on the BNSF Railway Co.'s line, which hosts Amtrak's California Zephyr. This application was not selected for an award.

Chicago to Iowa City via Quad Cities – not funded in 2009; application submitted Aug. 6, 2010

An earlier, but similar application for passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City via the Quad Cities was submitted on Oct. 2, 2009. Funding for the HSIPR program in 2009 was provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. There was intense competition for this first competitive grant program for intercity passenger rail. Unfortunately, the Iowa and Illinois DOT’s joint application was not selected for an award in the first round of funding.