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.