Thank you for the opportunity to speak before this Committee. Mississippi River crossings continue to be the highest transportation priority in the Quad Cities with over 150,000 vehicles crossing the Mississippi River on an average day and half of these crossings on the I-74 Bridge alone. In your packet, Exhibit I is a map indicating the I-74 Bridge location.
There is an urgent need to address congestion in the I-74 Bridge corridor. This bridge is carrying almost 74,000 vehicles per day and is significantly over capacity. The bridge itself is functionally obsolete and was not constructed to acceptable standards for Interstate driving conditions. The Iowa bound span was built in 1935 and the Illinois bound span was built in 1959 utilizing the 1939 design. Both spans were built for local non-interstate traffic and never met interstate standards. Consequently, the bridge has no shoulders and the ramps nearest the bridge have inadequate weaving lanes. Approximately 125 crashes have occurred on and near the I-74 Bridge in a one year period. In fact, the I-74 corridor accident rate is three times the national average in some locations. Improvements to address these capacity and safety concerns are necessary. Exhibit II, in your packet, illustrates the myriad of deficiencies and safety concerns in the I-74 Bridge corridor.
The I-74 Bridge is extremely important to the commerce of the area. Interstate 74 is the major north/south corridor in the Quad City area and provides for the movement of people and goods to employment centers, entertainment venues and commercial and industrial sites. The economy of the Quad Cities depends on adequate crossing capacity as we seek to serve the metropolitan population of 350,000. Over 50 percent of employed Quad Citians work in a community outside of their residence. Over 20 percent of those employed work outside of their state of residence.
The I-74 Bridge provides access to one of the few military arsenals in the United States, Rock Island Arsenal. It provides connectivity between regional commercial centers and is also important to the economy of the States of Illinois and Iowa as it provides for interstate commerce and connections to major U.S. markets. The Quad Cities has a 37 million person market area within a 300-mile radius that includes 13 percent of the nation’s population. Exhibit III includes captioned photographs visually showing the impacts of problems along the I-75 Bridge corridor.
The I-74 Corridor is part of the National Highway System and runs from 53rd Street in Davenport, Iowa to 23rd Avenue in Moline, Illinois, over five miles. The I-74 Corridor Study is the result of a Major Investment Study, conducted between 1996 and 1998, that examined crossing alternatives in the Quad Cities. The I-74 Corridor Study has analyzed solutions designed to improve traffic flow and address safety issues along the I-74 corridor. The draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be completed in the Summer of 2003. The balance of the work on the Final EIS and Record of Decision is expected in 2004, with completion in 2005. The project is being funded jointly by the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation in close coordination with other federal, state and local officials. The appropriation of $14,000,000 in federal funds over the past few years has made these efforts possible.
Although final project costs are still being developed it is estimated that they will total $600 to $650 million for the entire corridor. Authorization of this project in the 2003 Transportation Act is requested. In addition to the identification of this project as a high priority need in the 2003 Transportation Act, it is also requested that significant discretionary programs be established for bridges and interstate maintenance in the next transportation act to assist in funding the I-74 corridor improvements. Again, thank you again for the honor to speak to your today about this important transportation issue.
IOWA INTERSTATE RAILROAD IMPROVEMENTS, WYANET CONNECTION AND MIDWEST PASSENGER RAIL INITIATIVE
The Iowa Interstate Railroad is in need of repair for both freight and passenger purposes. Current service on the Iowa Interstate is approximately 40 miles per hour between Wyanet, Illinois, through the Quad Cities, to Omaha. In addition, a railroad connection between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Iowa Interstate Railroad is needed in Wyanet, Illinois.
The Illinois DOT commissioned a preliminary engineering study to determine the costs of the needed improvements. The Wyanet connection is estimated to cost $3.9 million dollars and is considered a key intersection to address both passenger and freight needs. The costs of improvement to the Iowa Interstate Railroad are estimated at $28.9 million. This improvement would increase service along the corridor from approximately 40-mile per hour service to 79-mile per hour service.
Further, the Quad Cities is not currently served by passenger rail. The Midwest Passenger Rail Initiative Study was conducted by nine Midwest State DOT’s and the Federal Railroad Administration to consider the best opportunities for passenger rail service using Chicago as a hub. The consultant study proposed a system that would generate high levels of ridership and would recover the majority of its operating costs (refer to the map in the Addendum).
Communities in the Quad City area have formed a coalition with neighboring jurisdictions in Iowa and Illinois to promote the development of passenger rail service along the Interstate 80 corridor. Implementation of service would help alleviate congestion on Interstate 80 and the resulting railroad improvements could also serve freight transportation. According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), 16 percent of the nation’s freight is carried by railroads. Unless $53 billion or $2.65 billion annually is provided to augment private railroad investment, this percentage will not be maintained within the next 20 years. The result would be the transfer of 450 million tons of freight to the highway system costing $238 billion in highway improvements over the 20-year period.
Leaders recognize the issues related to the provision of passenger rail service in the country and encourage timely resolve to these issues so that both existing and future passenger rail service needs can be addressed. Consideration should be given to the following: establish a dedicated, multi-year federal capital-funding program for intercity passenger rail similar to the federal highway and aviation programs; establish a federal policy to preserve and improve a national passenger rail system addressing new efficiencies, innovation and responsiveness; and fund implementation of this national passenger rail system.
DENISE L. BULAT
Denise Bulat is the Executive Director of the Bi-State Regional Commission. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Iowa State University in Ecology and a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa. She has been with Bi-State since 1984. Ms. Bulat is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the Iowa and Illinois Chapters of the American Planning Association. She also holds a Certificate in Management from the International City Management Association. In November 2001, she completed a Masters in Public Administration from Northern Illinois University. Ms. Bulat oversees the various activities of the Bi-State Regional Commission which serves the five-county area of Muscatine and Scott Counties in Iowa and Henry, Mercer and Rock Island Counties in Illinois. Those activities include transportation, comprehensive, and environmental planning; coordination of community development activities, grant writing and administration, graphics services, and intergovernmental facilitation.