There was an anniversary last Sunday. We wonder how many noticed. We did.
It was the 10th anniversary of the announcement that the federal government had approved a $230 million grant for a passenger rail connection between Chicago and Iowa City.
We remember the excitement that day. It had been decades since passenger rail service was available in the Quad-Cities, and railroad enthusiasts and community leaders had lobbied for years to get it restarted.
At the time, few people could remember a bigger outlay of federal dollars for the Quad-Cities. It was truly an exciting day.
A lot of things have happened since then. Unfortunately, completion of a passenger rail connection between here and Chicago is not one of them. In fact, relatively little has been done.
Thanks to the disinterest of former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who was elected the month after the grant was awarded, tens of millions of dollars allocated for the Iowa leg of the link was given back to the federal government.
Meanwhile, the $177 million earmarked to pay for the Chicago-to-Moline connection still sits largely unused.
Former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner sat on the project for four years. In fact, it was only by the intervention of lawmakers, notably Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., that the federal grant was even preserved.
Still, we wait — 10 years later — for a sign of measurable progress.
Oh, we have been told negotiations still are transpiring between the State of Illinois and the Iowa Interstate Railroad. We even heard a few weeks ago that things are going pretty well.
We've been hearing about negotiations for years. It seems like it took less time to build the Transcontinental Railroad than to wrap up these talks.
We remember former Gov. Pat Quinn, not long after the Oct. 25, 2010, announcement, saying rail service might even begin by 2013.
Many of us knew at the time this was a pipe dream. Still, we didn't imagine that 10 years on, we'd still be waiting for an agreement between the state and railroad.
Some in the Quad-Cities don't believe this project will ever happen.
We understand the feeling. There is reason for skepticism, but we refuse to give up.
We still believe this rail connection would be a benefit to our community, and we hope it comes to fruition.
Still, it's been a long time. We never thought that a new Interstate-74 bridge would be built before people here would ride the rails; yet, we're nearly halfway there.
So, by all means, happy 10th anniversary.