Government

Trump plan to cut money for Moline to Iowa City rail service

Funds could disappear after 'long stalled' project

The old train depot south of Burlington Street in Iowa City could be brought back into use if an Amtrak route from Iowa City to Chicago is ever realized. Hopes for that connection were dealt a blow this week when the Trump administration officials announced they were taking back $47 million set aside for a passenger rail connection between Moline and Iowa City. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The old train depot south of Burlington Street in Iowa City could be brought back into use if an Amtrak route from Iowa City to Chicago is ever realized. Hopes for that connection were dealt a blow this week when the Trump administration officials announced they were taking back $47 million set aside for a passenger rail connection between Moline and Iowa City. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The Trump administration’s plan to eliminate more than $15 billion from the federal budget includes cutting the $47 million that had been set aside for a passenger rail connection between Moline and Iowa City.

The administration sent the $15.4 billion package to Congress this week, arguing the funds were no longer needed or had been left unspent for several years.

“Washington has a spending problem,” White House officials said in announcing the plan earlier this week.

Called rescissions, these kinds of cuts haven’t been sought since the Clinton administration. They come the month after the Congressional Budget Office projected a long-term increase in federal deficits.

See also: When Iowa (almost) revived commuter rail

The projections came after Congress approved large tax cuts and a $1.3 trillion spending bill for 2019. The budget office projected the federal deficit would increase to $1 trillion in 2020.

The passenger rail funding for the Moline to Iowa City project was part of a $230 million award in the fall for 2010 for service from Chicago to Iowa City.

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In 2011, the Illinois and Iowa parts of the project were split in two, when then-Gov. Terry Branstad showed little interest because of funding concerns.

In its request to Congress this week, the administration said the project is “long stalled.”

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed eliminating the funding for the Moline to Iowa City leg in its 2019 budget submission. Congress has not acted on that request yet.

The Chicago to Moline link also has been delayed, but Illinois officials have said they’re committed to moving forward, and the administration has not proposed touching any of the $177 million set aside for that part of the connection.

Iowa officials have said they were aware of the potential loss of funds.

The American Public Transportation Association said earlier this week that instead of rescinding funds for intercity passenger rail, as well as other public transportation money, it should be shifted to deal with a big repair backlog for bus and rail systems.

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