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Peoria will apply for 2 federal grants in bid to establish passenger rail service

The Peoria City Council meets on Sept. 13, 2022.
Tim Shelley
The Peoria City Council meets on Sept. 13, 2022.

The Peoria City Council will contribute up to $100,000 toward applications for federal passenger rail grants in the next few months.

The council approved a budget amendment approving the expenditure, with only at-large councilman John Kelly dissenting.

City Manager Patrick Urich said there appears to be multiple ways to obtain a slice of the $66 billion available in rail funds through last year's bipartisan infrastructure bill.

"We thought there was only one and then last week, the Federal Rail(road) Administration released a second funding opportunity that allows for us to pursue two routes towards trying to get funding for a service development plan," said Urich.

The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grant Program offers $150 million for projects across the United States. Applications are due by Dec. 1. The second opportunity is the Corridor Identification and Development Program. The application period for that grant is expected to open later this year.

"What the Federal Rail Administration is trying to do is to get routes like Peoria, the route that we're advocating for, into the pipeline of potentially new rail services that would start throughout the United States," said Urich.

The city is splitting the application fee costs with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, Peoria County, and the northern Illinois communities on the proposed rail route. The city's rail working group also is asking the Illinois Department of Transportation to contribute unspent rail engagement funds toward the application, which may cost up to $250,000.

If the proposed Peoria-to-Chicago rail route is accepted, the Federal Railroad Administration would cover 80% of the costs for a service development plan.

Former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood of Peoria is part of the rail working group. He said the impact of an Amtrak station goes far beyond just transportation.

"There'll be businesses that will pop up, and that will mean jobs. The construction of this infrastructure will mean jobs. It's an investment. It's an economic development opportunity that will only come once in your lifetime. This is it," he said.

LaHood has previously said it could take up to 10 years for the project to come to fruition, if approved.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.