Vitas will be QC’s voice in high-speed passenger rail talks

Moline City Administrator Bob Vitas will be a “voice at the table” during the ongoing fight to bring high-speed passenger rail to his city after he was named by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker to the Illinois High-Speed Railway Commission.

On Friday, Oct. 6, Mr. Vitas was appointed to the commission. The panel is tasked with creating a statewide plan for a high-speed rail line and feeder network connecting Chicago and St. Louis, including a Quad Cities-to-Chicago link. 

The Moline city leader was nominated by the Illinois Municipal League and will be that organization’s representative on the commission.

A City of Moline news release said the appointment does not immediately address the impasse between the City of Moline, Amtrak and the Iowa Interstate Railroad which has delayed passenger service here and left Moline’s $16 million downtown rail station empty since 2018. But it is important to be “a voice at the table,” Mr. Vitas said in the release.

“I will serve in this position until such time as the commission completes its works and provides the Illinois Legislature with a plan for high-speed rail to serve Illinois,” Mr. Vitas added.

“It will not resolve the issues with Iowa Interstate directly, but it will impact those discussions as Moline is a principal city to be served connecting to the high-speed rail. At the end of the day, Moline’s Amtrak service will connect the city to Chicago and the high-speed rail system.”

The new high-speed rail line under consideration would be integrated with existing Amtrak and Metra services, intercity bus service and connect the Illinois cities of Rockford, Moline, Peoria and Decatur. It would start at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and take just 127 minutes to reach downtown St. Louis.

The community has been fighting for passenger rail to Moline for decades through lobbying and public campaigns, but so far those efforts have been derailed. 

Meanwhile, Moline has invested heavily in that future Chicago and St. Louis connection, building out its downtown infrastructure in anticipation of arriving passengers. For example, it  converted a downtown warehouse to serve as a new multi-modal train station. Also included are the Element hotel, new parking, retail shops inside the station and a platform and a pedestrian skywalk.

Lawmakers created the Illinois High-Speed Railway Commision in late 2021 and the panel is authorized through 2026. Its initial work includes conducting a ridership study and recommendations concerning a governance structure, frequency of service and implementation of the plan.

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