AMES, IOWA -- The Iowa Department of Transportation has joined eight
Midwestern states, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration in a
new regional rail passenger study.

        Coalition sponsors kicked-off the study, "Midwest Regional Rail
System Study," at a multi-state meeting held Nov. 12-13.  This initiative
will develop a business plan that preserves, improves and expands Midwest
rail passenger service along current Amtrak routes and additional
corridors radiating from Chicago.

        Two rail corridors in Iowa will be looked at in the study.  One
of the corridors is the current Amtrak route through southern Iowa
operated by the California Zephyr.  The other is a possible new rail
passenger route on the east-west Union Pacific mainline through central

        According to Iowa DOT transportation planner John Hey, "The DOT
supports establishment of new rail passenger service in Iowa where it is
supported by ridership, is safe, affordable, energy efficient, and
provides direct connections to the national rail passenger system.  This
study will help determine the financial feasibility of regional service
in the Midwest region."

        The nine states sponsoring the rail passenger service study are
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio
and Wisconsin.  The participating states will contribute a total of
$238,000 to sponsor the study.  Iowa's share will be $20,000.  Amtrak
will contribute $200,000, with the remainder of funds coming from a
$200,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.

        A steering committee will oversee the thirteen-month study that
will conclude in December 1997.  It will be conducted jointly by two
consulting firms under contract to Amtrak.