DOT Official Reviews Status of Midwest Rail Initiative

        John Hey of the Iowa Department of Transportation told members of
the Iowa Railroad Passenger Association (IARP) that a study of whether a
rail passenger system for the Midwest centered on Chicago is feasible
should be released to the public in March.  Hey stated during the IARP
Annual Meeting at Little Amana on Saturday, January 24, 1998, that the
study is progressing and should be available for review by state
transportation officials in February.  The one half million dollar study
is attempting to determine whether a nine state rail passenger network is
feasible and assuming that the network is viable, how it should be
implemented.  The Midwest Rail Initiative is jointly sponsored by nine
states -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri,
Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin -- along with Amtrak and the Federal
Railroad Administration (FRA).

        Hey stated that the Midwest Rail Initiative is unique from past
studies.  It will include advice to the nine states on how to implement a
feasible and viable rail passenger network.  Hey anticipates that any
system recommended by the study will suggest service within a 300 mile
radius of Chicago.  He said that making the system work will be
difficult.  There are many questions which must be answered, such as the
way in which the states organize themselves to make it happen, funding
alternatives, the role to be played by the Federal governing, and
relations with existing railroads, including Amtrak.  Hey indicated that
the states realize they must become more aggressive about their future
transportation needs and manage them more effectively and efficiently. 
The study is one tool which will be used.

        As part of the study, the consultants are looking at three
potential routes to provide additional rail passenger service across Iowa
and to Council Bluffs-Omaha.  The routes being analyzed are Burlington
Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) in Southern Iowa; Iowa Interstate which
parallels Interstate 80 through Central Iowa, and the Union Pacific which
generally follows Highway 30 across Iowa.  Each route has advantages and
disadvantages: the BNSF already has passenger facilities in place for the
daily California Zephyr, but the line does not serve major popular
centers in Iowa.  Iowa Interstate is within 30 miles of the majority of
the state's population, but the track would need major improvement to
handle passenger traffic at competitive and safe speeds.  The Union
Pacific is also close to a majority of the state's population, but the
line is congested with freight traffic and does not have passenger

        Hey cautioned members of the rail passenger group that while the
study should be ready for public review and comment by spring of this
year, no one should plan on buying tickets for a train soon.  He
estimates that it will be at least two years before a program can be in
place and trains in operation.   

        Also at the meeting Richard F. "Dick" Welch of North Liberty,
Iowa, was re-elected President.  Others re-elected to office were Vice
President is George F. Davison, Jr. of Des Moines, Michael Sellz of Iowa
City as Secretary, Mary Buczek of Davenport, Treasurer, and Roland Lynch
of Council Bluffs, Director.

        The next meeting of the Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers
will be held in Council Bluffs on March 28, 1998, in conjunction with the
Region 10 meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. 
Featured speaker at the meeting is scheduled to be John Martin, President
of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. 

        Meeting and membership information is available from the Iowa
Association of Railroad Passengers, Inc., 3349 Southgate Court, SW, Suite
108, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404-5424. IARP can be reached by telephone at
319-362-6824. E-mail can be sent to President Welch at  The IARP website is located at: 

George F. Davison, Jr.