Atlantic City Administrator talks about Chicago to Omaha Rail Route


March 7th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Atlantic City Administrator Doug Harris, Wednesday, urged the Council and public to visit an Iowa Department of Transportation Website designed to receive input on the desire and feasibility of a Chicago to Omaha passenger rail route.  The Federal Railroad Administration, in cooperation with the Iowa DOT, will analyze improvements to the regional intercity passenger rail service from Union Station in Chicago, through Iowa, to a terminal in Omaha.

The study will include a Tier 1 Service Level Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the corridor. The potential improvements will help complete the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative’s (MWRRI) vision for developing an improved and expanded passenger rail system in the Midwest. The study will be a major step in assessing the viability of a high-speed, regional passenger rail system in this highly populated corridor. Harris says there are five routes being studied.

That includes: The Canadian National Railway, that passes through Dubuque and Ft. Dodge; A Union Pacific Railroad route that passes through Cedar Rapids and Ames; A Canadian Pacific/Burlington Northern Santa Fe, or BNSF route through Cedar Rapids and Savannah; an Iowa Interstate Railroad route which passes through Iowa City, Des Moines and Atlantic; and, the Chicago-Burlington-Quincy Railroad, which passes through Burlington and Osceola.

Harris said some forecasts by the DOT indicate 246,800 passengers could travel the route each year. The trains would travel at speeds ranging from about 80-to 110-miles per hour, except through towns along the route. He says by going to the Iowa DOT’s website, you can find out more about the study, and leave your comments and suggestions. The website is

He says there are several elements to the 18-month study that will have to be considered before approval is given, but the thing that’s needed right now, is public input via the website. The study began this Winter by analyzing the project scope. Potential routes will be analyzed this Spring. Over the Summer, an environmental impact study will be conducted, which includes public and agency input, and an environmental analysis. In the Fall, a draft of the Tier 1 Schedule will be created, and with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) ready for final public input and agency review by the Spring of 2013.