New Rail System Could Maker Route From Omaha To Chicago Cheaper

Leah Uko

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA (KPTM) - A New project is underway to get people in Omaha to and from Chicago in a cheaper, faster way. The Iowa Department of Transportation is still in the planning phases of its "Chicago-Iowa-Omaha Passenger Rail Program".

Thursday they presented details in a public hearing in Council Bluffs. The main element they wanted people to take away--this project, when it is complete, will be a better alternative for them to travel to Chicago.

Trains and buses are convenient way to get to Chicago, but they're not always on schedule.

"Instead of getting at Chicago at 4, I got there at about 6," Robert Hess, who travels once a year to see his sister in Naperville, said. "[It's] just inconvenient for--not to know when to pick me up."

Hess, whose sister lives in Naperville--a suburb in Chicago, said he runs into these issues often when he takes the Amtrak.

"You never know when you're going to get there," Hess continued. "It's like 'oh when is it due?' it's like '4 o'clock but I'll call you when it's--when I actually get there."

He shows up a couple of hours before Iowa DOT's public hearing to get information about its passenger rail project.

Iowa DOT's Freight and Passenger Policy Coordinator, Amanda Martin said the purpose of creating a rail system that will go from Chicago to Iowa to Omaha is to save money of highway repairs and give travelers different options.

"It will be Wi-Fi capable. It has very comfortable seating. It has café cars that you can eat on the car and it has spacious ADA accessible bathrooms," Martin said.

Martin said a round-trip ticket from Iowa City to Chicago would be $62. This is supposed to be cheaper than tickets sold at Amtrak and Megabus, but she said this shouldn't take away their customers.

"The Inner City Passenger service would provide folks the options to just go between Chicago and Omaha. So shorter distance like 500 miles and less."

Amtrak, she said travels different routes and all the way to the west coast.

"So typically people who are wanting to use the long distance service, especially going west, would continue to use that service."

Travelers, like Mike Plum agree and said he would have to compare both services to see which is best depending on where he is traveling.

"Which has got better service, which gets me there faster," Plum said. "Good stuff like that."

The project has a total of five phases. Right now Iowa DOT is trying to find $20.6 million in state funding for phase two, which travels from Chicago to Moline to Iowa City. Once funding for that is provided Iowa DOT will move to phases 3, 4 and 5.

Phase one which travels from Chicago to Moline is set to start operating in 2015.

As for today, Hess wants to know other information.

"Like, where are the connections with public transportation and the possibilities of like taking a bicycle along."

Because when he arrives to a station in Chicago, he still has to get to Naperville.

People can still submit their comments in multiple ways up until December 26th.

Leave a comment on the study website.


Send a written comment by mail to Amanda Martin at 800 Lincoln Way, Ames, Iowa 50010.

Call the study's toll-free information line at (800) 488-7119.