This week, the Omaha World-Herald included an article about the Chicago-Omaha high-speed passenger rail feasibility study being conducted by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The Iowa DOT is currently seeking public input at http://chicagotoomaha.com/. Please go there now and provide your comments.
The OWH article did not mention that at the same time this public comment period is taking place, there is a bill (LB 747) in the Nebraska Legislature that would revoke the state’s signature to the Midwest Intercity Passenger Rail Compact. While LB747 does not necessarily effect the outcome of the feasibility study, it cancels our membership to the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Consortium (MIPRC) and sends a terrible signal to other states that Nebraska does not want to collaborate in efforts to promote, coordinate and support regional improvements to passenger rail service. Nebraska is not being asked to commit any public funds to the feasibility study and is also not required or compelled to follow any conclusions of the feasibility study.
As we look toward the industry, leisure, and travel options of the future, it would be a very short-sighted decision to shut down the potential for new infrastructure development and options for connections with other large cities in our region. We at least need to see what the study says before we send a signal that could lead Iowa DOT and the Federal government to exclude Omaha from a future HSR link to Chicago, especially if it is found to be feasible.
LB 747 is currently in the Transportation and Telecommnications Committee and is available to read here. Please write to the Transportation and Telecommunications chairwoman, Deb Fischer, and your state senator expressing your opposition to this bill.
For more information on rail issues in Nebraska, check out the ProRail Nebraska website.