Is a high-speed train Omaha-bound?

(The following story by Tim Rohwer appeared on the Omaha World-Herald website on June 25, 2009.)

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — High-speed passenger train service between Chicago and Omaha could eventually become a reality, Iowa Gov. Chet Culver said.

Culver, who traveled by train Wednesday to Council Bluffs to promote expanded rail service in Iowa, said a route between Chicago and Iowa City could be up and running within two years.

If that proves popular with the public, then the route would continue through Des Moines, Council Bluffs and into Omaha.

Culver said he wasn’t sure of the timetable on the extended route, only that it would be “several years” later.

“The long-term goal is to offer more affordable high-speed passenger rail service across Iowa and across America,” Culver told a large gathering after his train arrived at Rails West Museum about 4:30 p.m.

He expressed confidence that high-speed rail service will be a hit with the public.

“Given the cost of other forms of transportation, you can’t beat it because it doesn’t use much fuel,” Culver said.

Trains would help create jobs and improve the economies of communities large and small, he added.

Southern Iowa currently is served by two Amtrak trains daily. The Amtrak stations are in Mount Pleasant, Osceola, Ottumwa, Burlington, Fort Madison and Creston.

Culver’s delegation went through many small towns on the promotional tour, which began in the morning in Des Moines.

Approximately $5 million in his $830 million I-JOBS stimulus package, approved by the Legislature this spring, will go toward improved rail infrastructure.

What’s more, President Barack Obama is a passenger rail advocate, Culver said, and set aside $8 billion in the federal stimulus package for improved rail service.

Culver told the Associated Press that the rail improvements would not be that expensive and would consist of upgrades to existing rail lines.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

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