Search begins for IC-Chicago train depot

Originally published in The Daily Iowan 7/23/2009

The Iowa City-to-Chicago train will likely have its depot near the UI campus.

The Johnson County Council of Governments Urbanized Area Policy Board approved a proposal that will allow Iowa City officials to look for a location for a train-station site.

The measure passed 10-4 on July 21.

A feasibility study found UI students would make up the majority of passengers traveling to and from Chicago, which contributed to the decision, said Brad Neumann, the board’s assistant transportation planner.

Neumann said a one-way ticket would probably cost in the neighborhood of $45 to $60 based on current Amtrak routes.

Iowa City Mayor Regina Bailey said the only candidate for a location is the train depot on Wright Street, between Clinton and Dubuque Streets. Officials haven’t looked elsewhere because it is “ideally located” for students.

In a June 10 presentation, Rebecca Neades, the vice president and director of public policy for the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, said the train would benefit Iowa City — visitors to Johnson County spent more than $294 million in 2007.

Neades said it will take roughly five hours to get from Iowa City to Chicago and the Iowa City location will be more convenient for residents who normally use the Mount Pleasant station — a roughly one-hour drive.

Neumann said the approval will boost the Iowa Department of Transportation’s applications for $32.5 million in federal stimulus money, which is intended to help renovate the tracks.

The freight rails need to be changed to help the passenger trains move faster and more smoothly, Neades said.

Neades also said she is confident about obtaining the money because officials are asking for a relatively small amount; the federal government had set aside $8 billion for train transportation.

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