Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged support Friday for passenger rail service in the Quad-Cities, providing a counter to primary rival, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who last week voiced her opposition during a visit to the area.
Rauner toured Kone in Moline and, during remarks to employees, pointed to his support for rail service, along with getting the new Interstate-74 bridge over the Mississippi River built.
"I'm all about investing in infrastructure," Rauner said. "I want to get the Amtrak high-speed train coming over here. I want to invest more in the highway system. We're going to get the bridge built over here."
Rauner repeatedly referred to a "high-speed" train project, even though the Chicago to Moline connection in development for several years is not considered a high-speed rail project.
Still, the governors' support is a contrast from Ives, a state representative from Wheaton, who told the Quad-City Times editorial board last week the connection "is not a priority project" for the state.
Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was in office when the federal government approved a $230 million grant for a connection between Chicago and Iowa City in 2010. Quinn committed state matching funds for the project, but projected start dates were pushed back.
When he was elected in 2014, Rauner put it and other initiatives across the state on hold while a review was conducted.
Eventually, Quad-City economic development officials and rail enthusiasts became concerned the state's interest had withered, and pressed for a commitment.
In mid-2016, as a federal deadline approached, and amid pressure from Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., the state said it would move forward.
Since then, Illinois Department of Transportation officials have been in negotiations with the Iowa-Interstate Railroad.
Asked when construction might begin, Rauner said Friday he'd put money for rail service into his budget and added, "I've encouraged IDOT to continue to work on the high speed rail possibility for here."
On a different issue, Rauner again refused to say whether he would act on a bill before the primary that would have the state license gun dealers.
"The federal government already regulates these gun dealers, and we've got to be careful about putting too much redundant regulation," he said. "It won't really change or improve anything, but it may actually hurt small businesses in the state of Illinois, so we've got to evaluate the issues and we're in the process of doing that."
Ives, who has accused Rauner of betraying conservatives, voted against the legislation. During her Quad-Cities visit, she said the March 20 primary might pass before Rauner made a commitment.
Proponents say that even with federal oversight of gun dealers, they aren't effective at stopping weapons from being brought into Chicago and used in crimes.