The state of Illinois' request to extend a federal grant for the construction of a passenger rail link between Chicago and Moline has been approved by the Obama administration.
The extension, through Sept. 30, 2017, was confirmed by U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., along with the Federal Railroad Administration, on Thursday.
The Chicago-to-Moline passenger connection has been stalled for years. In late 2010, the federal government awarded $177 million for the connection, but little work has been done since then. And when Gov. Bruce Rauner took office in 2015, the rail project, along with others in the state, was put on hold for review.
Quad-City officials lobbied for the project, and they stepped up their efforts as a June 30 deadline for the grant neared. Bustos also sent letters to Rauner urging him to move ahead.
Just days before the deadline, the state said that it was committed to the project, which requires at least $45 million in state matching funds.
In an interview Thursday, Bustos said the extension was welcome news. And she added that, "I'm convinced that had we not stepped in and done so very aggressively, that project would have been dead."
A statement from the Federal Railroad Administration lent some weight to that view.
Sarah Feinberg, the administrator of the Federal Railroad Agency, said she is encouraged the state has recommitted to the project. At the same time, she added, "this would not have happened without the strong partnership FRA has with the Illinois delegation and it would not have happened without Rep. Bustos' unwavering persistence."
A spokeswoman for Rauner declined to comment Thursday.
Bustos has been mentioned as a potential 2018 challenger to Rauner, but she declined to talk Thursday about the prospects of running for governor. She said that she is instead focused on working for her constituents and that her advocacy of the rail project was a demonstration of that.
It's not clear when work on the passenger rail project might begin. A projected start date for service also has not been publicly announced.