Dubuque asking state to make passenger rail from Chicago a priority in 2018

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Dubuque is pushing for a passenger rail service that would connect to Chicago.

Train bridge in Dubuque

This passenger rail was listed as a priority in the city's '2018 State Legislative Priorities Report.'

Dubuque has wanted this for years, but the plan still needs approval from the Illinois DOT.

One point eight million people visit Dubuque each year, and they say a passenger rail connecting this jewel along the Mississippi to Chicago would only increase those numbers.

Assistant City Manager Terri Goodman said, "Dubuque is a tourism destination so rail would just encourage and help people to move from Chicago to the Dubuque area and the Tri-State area."

Goodman says the biggest thing standing in the way of this tourism draw is the state of Illinois.

"We know Illinois is in a very difficult financial situation, so we don't anticipate that this would happen tomorrow but nothing in transportation infrastructure happens overnight. So we have to be prepared for if and when the opportunity would present itself," she said.

Chandra Ravada, with the East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA) says the city still made this train a state legislative priority for 2018 so when Illinois is ready, so is Dubuque.

Ravada said, "having that as a priority is good because it should be on the list. When we go to the [Iowa] DOT we'll say, 'hey here's our priorities,' and the DOT will say, 'yup we see that.'"

Ravada adds that the city would incur little cost for this project. It would just be in charge of maintaining the train's platform and overnight staging area.

He also says that the city has already secured $3.2 million from the Iowa DOT to prep the railways from the Iowa border into Dubuque for passenger trains.

David Solberg, who is a train enthusiast and chair for the advocacy group called Ride the Rail, is pleased the city is taking steps to be ready for the rail.

"I’m just grateful that Dubuque and our city leadership and things like that wants to be ready if the issues come to pass, which I’m sure they will. It’s not a question of 'if' with passenger rail, I think it’s 'when,'" he said.

In the end, it's all about being prepared for the future.

"If the train comes to Dubuque to the border then we are ready. We can get the train anytime into Dubuque if the Illinois DOT says we are coming," he said.