Visions of Light Rail

Local pols all over the country are salivating at the prospect of a big federal stimulus package bulging with infrastructure bucks. Visions of superhighways and bridges dance in their heads.

So what should be on our wish list? If I were king, I’d include light rail service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

Last I heard, the price tag for fixing up and expanding the old Crandic line to provide service to Cedar Rapids, North Liberty and on to Iowa City is around $70 million. If you think about it, that’s the same cost as only 70 U.S. Senate appointmentsin Illinois by Gov. Blago the Bleeper.

That ain’t bad.

If someone has different numbers, let me know.

It’s also a lot less than it would cost to add an extra lane to I-380, which, according to a story I found in our archives, would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

I know there are a lot of other worthy projects out there. Highway 100, U.S. 30 etc. Disaster-related needs are, obviously, a top priority.

But the economic, environmental, tourism and safety advantages of taking a chunk of drivers off 380 and putting them on a train are worth getting serious about. Enough with endless studies, let’s go for some bucks.

In the past year I’ve been to Denver, St. Louis and Minneapolis/St. Paul, all cities benefiting significantly from interurban light rail service. In each case the trams were convienent, fast and well-used, especially when gas prices were skyrocketing. And anyone who thinks that won’t happen again is commuting to fantasyland.

It’s not just for tree-huggers and snooty Europeans anymore.

And, looking even further ahead, how great would it be to take the light rail to Iowa City and board an Amtrak train to Chicago?

Maybe you agree or disagree. Let me know what you think. Might be worth a column down the line.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Visions of Light Rail

  1. MV

    I totally agree, local train service would be great. But why settle for light rail? I say maglev. CR to IC with a stop in NL: 10 minutes. And free cotton candy.

  2. Martha Not-Stewart

    I think that train service between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City would be good. Getting Amtrack up here would be nice too!

  3. I’m an American that lives in Canada and advocating for light rail on an old interurban line here. Isn’t it funny that the US and Canadian governments are willing to consider billions of dollars in bailout money for GM and others, build and expand highways that negatively impact on our environment and only spawn more traffic congestion, but these same politicians will hem and whore over clean, efficient light rail that has been proven the world over to woo choice riders (those with cars) to ride transit? What are these people smoking?

  4. Emily

    Let’s do it already! A CR/IC train would be great, and I’ve heard rumors that the IC Amtrak thing is not too far away…

  5. sam bergus

    Where I can see the benefit for Iowa City in such a project, the benefits to Cedar Rapids are limited. Because CR has already suffered through years of uncontrolled urban sprawl, as well as having a drastically under funded, and poorly run public transit system, I can’t see anyone hopping on a train and heading to CR for the day or the weekend.

    I assume that the system would have stations in the down town areas of both towns, so once you got off the train in downtown CR, then what? You could do a little bit of shopping and eat at a restaurant (as long as it was before 5pm) or you could jump on a bus for an hour long ride to get to one of the malls (as long as you boarded the return bus before 6pm).

    So while I love the idea of a rail connection between IC and CR, I can’t honestly see a benefit for the CR half of that relationship without a major shift in the current city wide culture.

  6. Brent Oleson

    I hope all the people who are chanting “monorail, monorail, monorail” are the first people to give up their cars and ride the thing, every day. All the cities that are cited by Mr. Dorman have millions of people in a fifty mile area, something we don’t have. Also, they have very vibrant and dense downtown areas with large employers along the lines, something we don’t have. Get real people. We need to be realistic about who and what we are in this area and support those infrastructure items that make sense. Those items may not be sexy, like lite-rail, but they are pragmatic and realistic “needs” for us now. We need to separate our wants from our needs, and fund the needs right now.

  7. Tom

    Considering that we don’t even have regular commuter bus service between CR and IC, a commuter rail line sounds like a costly boondogle. Shiny and fun, but impractical.

  8. Calvin

    Not practical? Drive 380 any day of the week, surely some of those people would ride a rail. Sure, it may not be as convenient as your car. The world is changing. We need to change with it.

    If you go to Iowa City you gotta get home somehow.

    I’m sorry I’m so late to this conversation. My question is how do we make it happen? How can I help? I’m so tired of talking.

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