Amtrak Service to Dubuque Chugging Along


By Daren Sukhram

DUBUQUE - Plans for a passenger train route that's been in the works for almost 20 years are chugging along a little faster.

The long-awaited Amtrak passenger route connecting Iowa to Chicago is getting closer to becoming a reality.

The proposed line would run from Chicago to Dubuque, and then possibly go on to Waterloo and maybe Des Moines.

Janet Fisher calls herself the "crazy train lady".

"I have family in Chicago and the drive gets longer every time I do it, it drives me crazy," said Fisher of Galena, Illinois.

She's been working with law-makers for the past 17 years to get passenger rail service from Dubuque to Chicago. Fisher is hopeful after this meeting with some key players from Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

"It looks like the feds, in terms of allocating funds will really look favorably upon regions that work together," says Amtrak's Derrick James.

Funding the rail route has been a struggle for several years. But now the dual state project is getting more funding than ever before.

Iowa set aside $3-million dollars for the service. Millions of federal economic stimulus dollars are ear-marked for this project. And the rest is up to Illinois.

"There is $150-million dollars in the capital bill for passenger rail so we are looking very optimistic about the return of rail," said Kelley Duetmeyer, ECIA.

Last week Illinois law-makers approved that capital bill, and are waiting for Governor Quinn to sign it.

"Once the rail returns it's real critical to ride it, it's very important that we support it."

Fisher, the crazy train lady, says she'll be the first to hop on board.

Amtrak says if the funding comes through, it will take two or three years to upgrade an old line of train tracks between Dubuque and Chicago so they can accommodate passenger cars.

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