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Fewer Highways and More Railroads

February 21, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa - Iowans, like most Americans, are driving less. Vehicle miles traveled are decreasing, with only 18 percent of travel each day work-related, which reduces the justification for building additional roads. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) has done a financial analysis of investing in a passenger rail route between Iowa City and Chicago.

Tammy Nicholson, DOT director of rail transportation, says the analysis shows that the line would bring economic benefits to the state.

"Iowa would receive $2.77 in transportation economic benefits for every dollar that the state of Iowa invests in this corridor."

She says Iowa needs to maintain a good road system and public transit system, but the future is in rail.

"Another piece of that whole system that we think can be really strengthened is this regional or inter-city passenger rail, just to provide another option for travelers. Also, it's very efficient and environmentally friendly."

The legislature is currently debating whether to retain the Smart Growth planning language passed last year, part of which helps communities plan for transportation needs that focus on options to driving, such as passenger rail service.


Dick Layman, Public News Service - IA