Posts Tagged ‘Iowa Department of Transportation’

Fort Madison Reaches Pact for New Station

April 11, 2019

Amtrak and the City of Fort Madison, Iowa, have reached agreements on moving the city’s station stop to a historic depot in downtown.

The city council approved three separate agreements with Amtrak, including a lease agreement, a sublease agreement, and a revitalization agreement.

City Manager David Varley said the agreements provide that Fort Madison will construct a passenger platform at the downtown depot that Amtrak will lease for 20 years.

The city will be responsible for all maintenance, upkeep and repairs.

Amtrak will pay the city $150,000 for the platform and $400 a month in rent and utilities.

The city will give to the platform to BNSF, which will lease it to Amtrak.

If the lease is terminated, the city will surrender the platform to Amtrak.

Although the city has reached agreements with Amtrak in past on station changes, Varley said these agreements are different because instead of suggesting more changes, “[Amtrak] said it will sign it immediately and then [the agreements] will go to the Iowa Department of Transportation.”

The estimated cost for the new platform is $1.2 million. Past efforts to move the Amtrak stop were thwarted by the city being $400,000 short in funding for the project.

The city was almost ready to give up when the Iowa Department of Transportation said it had grant money the city could use to make up the shortfall.

IDOT is expected to put the platform construction project out for bid this summer once it receives all of the signed agreements.

Fort Madison is served by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which currently stops at a facility on 20th Street.

Iowa Passenger Advocates Undaunted in Push to Get Intercity Rail Service to Iowa City, Des Moines

November 28, 2017

Iowa passenger train advocates continue to push for service to Iowa City and Des Moines, but expansion of Amtrak to those cities is unlikely to occur anytime soon.

Officially, the prospect of providing intercity rail passenger service to the home of the University of Iowa (Iowa City) and the capital (Des Moines) remains under study by the Iowa Department of Transportation, but the state legislature thus far has declined to approve funding for the service.

Christopher Krebill of Davenport is the head of the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers and remains optimistic about the prospects of implementing twice-daily service between Chicago and Iowa City within the next five years.

“I love this state and I love the rail service that we have now,” Krebill told the Des Moines Register. “I believe that having train service in central and northern Iowa, and doubling train service on Amtrak’s current two routes would do great things for Iowa’s transportation network and Iowa companies and people.”

The proposed service to Iowa City would serve the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois and was being pushed for a time by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The service was projected to draw 187,000 passengers annually. A federal grant of $230 million has funded earlier studies of the proposed service.

Although a 2015 start-up date was eyed, Iowa lawmakers would not approve that state’s share of the funding, estimated at $20 million plus annual grants for operating expenses.

Many Iowa legislators argued that if passenger trains are viable they should be operated by the private sector.

The proposed Amtrak service to Iowa City was expected to eventually be extended to Des Moines and Omaha.

At one time, rail service operated via Iowa City and Des Moines on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad.

Amtrak has never operated scheduled passenger trains to Iowa City, which lost passenger rail service in 1970. Des Moines has been without passenger trains since May 31, 1970, when the Rock Island’s Cornbelt Rocket was discontinued there.

The Rock Island continued passenger service to the Quad Cities from Chicago until 1978.

Those former Rock Island rails are now owned by the Iowa Interstate Railroad and would be used within Iowa for the Chicago-Iowa City route.

Iowa is currently served by two Amtrak long-distance trains, the California Zephyr between Chicago and Emeryville, California; and the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles.

The Chief’s only stop in Iowa is at Fort Madison while the Zephyr serves the Iowa cities of Burlington, Mount Pleasant, Ottumwa, Osceola and Creston.

In fiscal year 2017, Amtrak had ridership of 60,585 passengers, which was a decline of 1.3 percent when compared with FY2015. Amtrak’s high water ridership mark in Iowa occurred in 2010 when it carried 68,744.

During the administration of Gov. Chet Culver, Iowa officials examined the Chicago-Iowa City proposal in 2010.

Jim Larew, who was policy director and chief legal counsel to Culver, still believes that the route would be appealing to such key demographic groups as college students, young professionals and older Iowans.

“My own view is that this is just a matter of when, not if,” Larew said. “The model will always fit to have passenger rail service from Chicago to Iowa City, and then over to Des Moines and possibly Omaha.”

The Iowa Department of Transportation continues to work on preliminary engineering and environmental studies of proposed rail passenger service between the Quad Cities and Iowa City on the Iowa Interstate Railroad’s tracks, said Amanda Martin, the agency’s railroad passenger and freight policy coordinator. She said that work is expected to continue into 2018.

In Illinois, that state’s DOT was able to get an extension of the federal grant until June 2018.

Kelsea Gurski, IDOT’s bureau chief of communications services, said that will enable the agency to continue working with the Iowa Interstate Railroad on preliminary engineering studies that will determine the full scope of improvements necessary to host passenger trains between Wyanet and Moline, Illinois.

“A timeline for the overall project will be ready once these studies are completed and construction and service agreements are in place with the Iowa Interstate Railroad,” Gurski said.

Current Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has not yet taken a position on expanded passenger rail service in Iowa, said Brenna Smith, Reynolds’ spokeswoman.

Smith said it’s too soon to begin discussing state funding because the Iowa DOT’s studies are still underway.

State Sen. Matt McCoy of Des Moines continues to advocate for passenger trains to the state capital and sees a potential opportunity if a much talked about federal infrastructure program comes to fruition.

“That doesn’t mean that Iowa will participate in a state share of money for the project, but I get the feeling that Illinois would at least bring the train to the Quad Cities. Then it would be up to us to determine if we want it to go any further,” he said.

In its most recent report on FY2017, Amtrak said ridership figures for Iowa stations were: Burlington: 8,430; Mount Pleasant: 13,736; Ottumwa: 12,209; Osceola: 15,752; Creston: 3,797; and Fort Madison: 6,661.

Red Tape Delaying Fort Madison Station Move

June 2, 2017

Red tape keeps holding back the movement of Amtrak to the former Santa Fe station in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Amtrak said it is waiting for documents from the Fort Madison City Council. The city council in turn has said it is waiting for approval of the documents from the Iowa Department of Transportation.

However, Fort Madison City Manager David Varley, the process may seem bewildering but it will ensure that the move can be made without any problems. He said, though, that it will be a long process.

“The only update we have is that we just asked for an update,” Varley said. “We had to add some wording in a contract and wanted to get it approved by IDOT, because if we approved it and Amtrak approved it and we sent it to IDOT and said the wording wasn’t quite right we would have to work on it again.”

Varley said he has heard from Amtrak officials, who asked when the contracts would be ready.

“I think they are ready and willing to get going as long as IDOT approves it,” Varley said. “So we are just waiting for approval from IDOT. Then we will take the contracts and put them in agreements with Amtrak and BNSF and we will bring them to city council for approval.”

Once all the approvals are given then IDOT place the project on a bidding calendar.

Varley said he has been told this is the last set of documents the city will have to provide before a final bid date is set.

Fort Madison is the only Iowa station served by the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

City Manager Says New Amtrak Station Platform in Fort Madison May be Completed This Year

January 18, 2017

Amtrak is waiting on Federal Railroad Administration approval of a new platform reconstruction project in Fort Madison, Iowa.

Amtrak 4City officials said that although the project was projected to go out for bids in April, that is now more likely to occur in May or June. Construction is expected to take six to eight months.

The project will move the Amtrak stop for the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief to the former Santa Fe passenger station, which has recently been rehabilitated.

Fort Madison City manager David Varley said once the FRA signs off on the project the platform plans will be reviewed by BNSF, which owns the station site.

“The final construction plans have been submitted,” Varley said.

Once BNSF reviews the platform plans, they will be passed on to the Iowa Department of Transportation for its review. “IDOT will be the group that will be bidding out the project,” Varley said.

Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must issue a 404 permit because the Amtrak platform will be located in a flood plain.

“We are working on getting that permit, which is required,” Varley said. “We are trying to tie up some of the final paperwork and review of the final plans approved, and once that all gets together, we will get a definitive date as to when it will go on a schedule as to when it will go to be bid out.”

And then the Fort Madison City Council will need to approve the plans.

“We need to clarify what the duties and responsibilities of both parties are,” Varley said. “These have to be approved by both parties before the project goes out to bid and before construction starts.”

Despite having a lot of hoops to jump through, Varley does not expect any problems to crop up that will keep the platform from being built.