Geneseo stop on Amtrak still not out of the question

Beth Welbers
Geneseo Republic

For a number of years, Geneseo has looked forward to being told when to grab the ceremonial groundbreaking shovel for the proposed depot on a Chicago to points west route on Amtrak.

During the Obama Administration, the proposal to expand passenger rail was made with Chicago as the Midwestern hub.  A route that included Geneseo as one of the stops on the proposed Chicago to Omaha leg was on the docket.  

In the time since that proposition was made, the route was shortened to Des Moines, and recently Iowa opted out of the agreement altogether.  

What remains of the original route is Amtrak service between Chicago's Union Station and Moline. No longer high speed rail, but passenger service, with two trains daily, one out and one back, similar to neighboring Kewanee or Princeton. 

An Amtrak conductor wearing a protective mask looks down the train platform at the Galesburg, Ill., station Tuesday, June 15, 2021, in Galesburg.

Marc Magliari, Public Relations Manager and Media spokesman for Amtrak is aware of the proposal, and that federal funds for the project had been allocated to the Illinois Department of Transportation.  In the discussion about the  Geneseo location, he did ask about the depot, since he'd noted the one in town seemed to house businesses.  The response was that the City was just waiting for an invitation to a groundbreaking, as they have plans for a nice new train station. 

Scott Speegle with the Illinois Department of Transportation admits to knowledge of the proposed passenger service.  He assured that Geneseo is still on the proposed route, originating in Chicago, and then taking the Iowa Interstate tracks outside of Wyanet, on to Geneseo and Moline. According to him, the "talks are still ongoing and active."

IDOT is negotiating with the Iowa Interstate Railroad regarding the use of a section of railway.  Part of those negotiations are that the track bed requires some upgrades to accommodate the 79 mph passenger speeds, making for a comfortable and safe ride. 

Geneseo Chamber of Commerce director, Zack Sullivan stated that it would be a tremendous boost to Geneseo tourism to have the Amtrak stop.  "We are construction ready here in Geneseo.  We can expand our mural projects with a focus on visibility from the passenger trains, and show visitors that Geneseo does Americana well."

Sullivan also expressed concern for procrastination.  "The longer it takes to get this program started, the greater the threat of losing federal funding.  Time to get this train rolling!"

Iowa Interstate Railroad had not responded to calls by the Republic by time of this writing.