Do the Tri-States Need a 21st Century Transportation Upgrade?
For many years, there have been rumblings about restoring rail service between Dubuque, Galena & Rockford, and Chicago. I wrote about it earlier this spring in an article titled: All Aboard! Is it Time to Restart Passenger Rail Between Dubuque and Chicago?
The Tri-States and Dubuque Regional economies are vibrant with mass appeal. As evident with the 2nd-annual Major League Baseball game at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville. News reports had dozens of private jets lined up at the Dubuque Regional Airport, with countless others descending upon the event from every direction.
While this Field of Dreams event may appear to be a unique attraction, it symbolizes the broader appeal the area has regionally, nationally, and internationally for business and leisure travel. In addition, based on recent news announcing millions in state, local, and private investments, long-term success also requires adequate transportation.
Now may be the time to get on board with the idea or, at a minimum, join the discussions underway. Gas prices have soared since the article mentioned above was written. In addition, American Airlines announced that it would no longer provide jet service between Dubuque Regional Airport and Chicago O'Hare.
A vibrant regional economy requires a comprehensive and integrative transportation system, including roads, air, and rail. You can build tourist attractions, but will people come if it's excessively expensive or complicated to get here?
I recently discovered that there is no direct bus service between Dubuque, Galena, and Chicago. Buses departing Dubuque travel first to the Quad Cities or Milwaukee, where passengers must make a transfer. The travel time takes nearly five hours! This situation is not efficient, cost-effective, or appealing.
It's curious and even a bit absurd that a city of Dubuque's size and, in a broader sense, so much of America operates with such a limited, old-fashioned, and unappealing public transportation system.
But, of course, this does not suggest that rail travel is the panacea to our overall public transportation woes. Especially considering the high operating costs and Amtrak's poor service are well documented; therefore, if not rail, perhaps it's time to consider other viable 21st Century options with more flexibility and frequency as needed.
While we're at it, should we invite Elon Musk to build a self-driving vehicle or hyperloop transportation prototype in the Tri-States?
In other countries, fast, frequent, clean, reliable, deluxe bus, shuttle, rail, and ferry services are available and widely used. Perhaps Americans remain too attached to the automobile's profoundly ingrained feeling of driving freedom, but it certainly comes at a cost to the individual.
Still, it's worth asking if there is a need to fill for a regional shuttle service between Dubuque and Madison's Dane Country Airport, or might regular service to Cedar Rapids and Moline Airports be worth considering?
So, does there need to be a conversation on a proposed passenger rail line between Dubuque and Rockford with a Gelana stop and a stable connection to Chicago? At this point, why not explore all options beyond the usual?
If you'd like to partake in such a discussion and learn more about the proposed passenger rail service, the Ride the Rail group hosts a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, August 18, at Galena City Hall, 101 Green Street.
There will also be a presentation on the year-long viability study by Quandel Consulting and funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.