Engineering and environmental study work is under way on the passenger rail line that will link Moline with Chicago, and the rail service is expected to be in operation by the end of 2015, project officials said during a public informational meeting Thursday in Moline.

The $222 million project, funded by $177 million in federal money and $45 million from the state of Illinois, will link the Iowa Interstate Railroad line from Moline with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line near Wyanet, Ill.

The project will include a new rail station in Geneseo, a layover station where trains can be stored overnight in Rock Island and track improvements along the existing tracks that will allow the passenger trains to travel up to 79 mph, which would get passengers from Moline to Union Station in Chicago in about three hours, said John Schwalbach of URS Corp., a consultant on the project.

The project also would make use of a multi-modal station built by the city of Moline.

Todd Popish, the rail program planning section chief for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said that given the price of gasoline and the popularity of Amtrak, it makes sense to invest in alternative modes of transportation in Illinois.

Schwalbach said the route is part of a larger plan to expand passenger rail service throughout the Midwest using Chicago as a hub.

Among those who attended Thursday’s meeting was Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba, who asked about the prospects of the rail line connecting to a passenger rail line through Iowa.

Schwalbach said the Illinois project is being planned to accommodate a possible connection across the Mississippi River to Iowa.

Gluba said he has been lobbying Gov. Terry Branstad, the Iowa Department of Transportation and local legislators to approve funding to include Iowa in the project.

“There’s no excuse for them not to do it,” Gluba said.

Mike Hammer of Rock Island said he drives to Galesburg twice a year to take Amtrak to a home he has in Grandview, Colo., and finds passenger rail service relaxing and fun.

Hammer said he thinks area residents will use the passenger train as an alternative to driving to Chicago.

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