Passenger rail on track for Geneseo

Lisa Depies
This graphic shows what the area near the current Geneseo train depot could look like when passenger rail comes to Geneseo.

Passenger rail service is on track to come to Geneseo. Earlier this week, government officials announced Iowa and Illinois would receive $230 million for a Chicago-to-Iowa City passenger rail route.

As part of the project, a station would be established in Geneseo.

“This is huge for Geneseo,” said Geneseo Chamber of Commerce director Rhonda Ludwig. “It’s something that’s been worked on for years and years.”

She credits individuals such as the late Merle LeSage, Pat Eberhardt,?Dawn Tubbs, Teresa Savage and Ken Schlomer for putting “extensive effort” into bringing passenger rail to Geneseo.

The 219.5-mile Chicago-to-Iowa City route will provide twice-daily, round-trip service at maximum speeds of 79 miles per hour.

According to a release from Sen. Dick Durbin’s office, the entire project “is scheduled for completion in 2015.”

As a stop on the route, a 600-foot platform, warming station and ticket kiosk would need to be constructed in Geneseo.

Funding for the local construction would be an 80/20 split with the federal government, with the city of Geneseo responsible for 20 percent of the cost.

The city also would be responsible for the costs of all ongoing station maintenance.

Though the original Geneseo train depot is privately owned, the site adjacent to the station building previously was donated to the city by Don Fehlman for passenger rail use.

“We need to have an engineer come in and look at options to see what can be done,” said Geneseo mayor Linda Van Der Leest.

She said the city’s short-term goals would be to establish what would be needed for a platform, warming station and ticket kiosk.

“Beyond that, we’d take a look at the vision behind that area, how it can be developed and how the city can be advanced as a result of it,” she said.

Ludwig said proposed passenger rail service to Geneseo poses “tremendous” tourism potential.

“Our festivals will see a big increase in attendance. We can market them to people in Chicago, and they’d be able to hop on a train and be here quickly,” she said.

“This also will increase the quality of life in Geneseo even more. There are people who are seeking communities with passenger rail,” said Ludwig.

A passenger route between Chicago and Iowa City will also allow college students an option for travel between Geneseo and schools in Chicago or the University of Iowa.

“I would think parents would be thrilled to have another way for students or themselves to get to and from campus,” said Ludwig.

The $230 million earmarked for the local route is part of $2.5 billion Congress appropriated in Fiscal Year 2010 for high speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service.