We are pleased to celebrate with our fellow Q-C passengers significant progress in our long journey to winning passenger rail service to Chicago.
So high-fives and thank you to all who had a hand in making sure $122 million was set aside in the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois plan to get the Chicago to Moline passenger rail line back on track.
That includes: Gov. J.B. Pritzker; his House and Senate leadership teams; area lawmakers; the Illinois Department of Transportation; the Quad Cities Chamber; local city and community leaders; and everyday Quad-Citians whose support helped get us to this critical next step.
At the risk of raining on this hard-won victory parade, however, it is important to remember that there still is a long way to go before the first rail travelers step off at The Q in downtown Moline.
It's more than encouraging that full funding was included in the infrastructure program approved last Sunday, but the battle is far from over, and this is no time to let down our guard.
Yes, the money has been committed, but it still must be delivered, as Quad-Citians were reminded in 2015 regarding the $45 million for the project that had been included in a celebrated 2009 capital bill.
Gov. Bruce Rauner said then he was freezing those funds as part of a review of state spending projects. His administration also was considering deeply slashing public transit spending, including Amtrak and rail projects.
That delayed release of the $45 million Gov. Pat Quinn had committed to restart the Q-C-Chicago rail service for the first time since 1978 from that previous infrastructure plan.
Proponents had hoped the Quinn capital bill would mean completion of the project by 2012. That deadline was later moved to 2016 and then beyond due to missed state deadlines to meet federal matches and, of course the unconscionable, unnecessary and crippling budget stalemate that helped put Pritzker in office.
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During the campaign, candidate Pritzker made a new capital bill a top priority and he made clear that he understood the importance of the Q-C rail project. But given the fierce competition for infrastructure dollars, the Q-C rail project’s inclusion was not a given.
The fact that it made the final cut is a testament, not only to Pritzker and the other leaders we’ve mentioned, but to the Q-C's commitment to the project.
In short, our community, led by Moline, has done its part.
Despite funding uncertainty, infrastructure has been in place in downtown Moline to welcome passengers since 2018 when it celebrated the opening of the beautiful inter-modal station, The Q, and The Element Hotel.
City leaders promised they would deliver, and they did.
Unfortunately, as we all know, the trains have not yet come. It is time that changed, and the Rebuild Illinois plan is our best opportunity yet for making this transformative project happen. Still, it is far too early to declare victory.
Besides making certain that the money promised can actually be spent, other challenges include renegotiating federal budget deadlines and inking a deal between the state and Iowa Interstate Railroad regarding the scope, impact and timeline to complete the project.
As Q-C leaders remain focused on the difficult work ahead to keep this effort on track, Quad-Citians would be wise to remember that our support remainse critical to making the project a reality.
So go ahead, Q-C, take that well-earned bow. Then, please, resume your seat on the Q-C passenger rail train.