A decades-long effort to bring passenger rail service from Chicago to the Quad-Cities had been derailed for years.
But proponents hope the passage of a capital appropriations bill by the Illinois legislature on Sunday means the project is finally on track. The $45 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure bill includes $225 million in funding for the Moline-to-Chicago rail line.
The bill was passed by the legislature this session, and now awaits the governor's signature. The six-year plan states the rail project is a "key element for improving connectivity between major Midwest cities."
Tyler Power, manager of Government Affairs for the Quad-Cities Chamber of Commerce, has been lobbying for funding at the Statehouse alongside stakeholders and local legislators.
"This has been our top priority for the Chamber," Power said. "So, being able to cross that off our list and secure funding was a huge victory for the region. We're one step closer to getting passenger rail in the Quad-Cities."
Funding for the infrastructure improvements relies on some tax increases, including higher costs for gas, cigarettes and online sales.
It would be the first massive infrastructure improvement program in the state since the last capital bill was approved in 2009. A decade ago, the bill allocated around $150 million for the Moline-to-Chicago line and rail improvements.
In 2011, the Federal Railroad Administration awarded the Illinois Department of Transportation a $222 million grant for the Quad-City line. The federal grant was set to expire in June, but Power said stakeholders are working to extend the deadline, which would be another win for local passenger rail proponents.
The proposed route would run along the rail tracks between Chicago and Wyanet, west of Princeton. At Wyanet, the line will carry trains into Moline and Geneseo, where another stop is proposed.
Once completed, the rail line would offer twice-daily round trips between Chicago and Moline. Other stations served will include Princeton, Mendota, Plano, Naperville, LaGrange and Chicago Union Station.
Despite the project being derailed for years under former Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration, stakeholders have been making progress.
Around $25 million in improvements were made to the rail yard in Aurora, which will provide storage for the line, said Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell. Moline has constructed a multi-modal station, hotel and commercial space, still waiting to be used by Amtrak riders.
Power expects the $225 million in appropriations from the state to "be enough to cover the entire project."
But even if the money is allocated, the Quad-Cities won't be able to use it until the state and Iowa Interstate Railroad reach an agreement and determine the scope, impact and timeline to complete the project.
"We are very excited to know the governor sees value in this project," Power said. "We hope it'll be enough to get it done. We're ready for this to become a reality."