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Fort Madison Must Re-Design Depot Platform


City leaders in Fort Madison still have some work to do before they can bring passenger rail service to the downtown district.  The Mississippi River was known to surround the historic Santa Fe Depot in Riverview Park on occasion, which does not bode well for train traffic.

In response, the city elevated the depot and two neighboring buildings several feet in the air. It also renovated the buildings, poured a new parking lot, and built a new passenger platform.

That platform has become an issue for the city, according to David Varley, Fort Madison's City Manager.

Varley said the platform was built along a curve, which he said is contrary to the standards of BNSF Railway.  He said the railroad has a say in the design because it owns the tracks along the depot.

"The comments (we received from BNSF) were that we take a couple hundred feet from one end of the track where it starts to curve," said Varley, "and add it on the other end of the platform so we basically move a couple hundred feet on the other end."

Varley said the re-design could end up costing the city a couple hundred thousand dollars, which he said it not available at this point. He said grants will be sought by the city.

"We are still working on all of the funding, especially with this increase, so a lot of these loose ends still have to be tied up," said Varley.

Another of the "loose ends" is that the city does not have a formal contract in place for Amtrak to relocate from the existing train station on 20th Street.  Varley said these negotiations have been going on for more than one year.

"Right now, we are going back and forth with Amtrak on some lease agreements," said Varley.  "There are some provisions in there we would like to see altered a little bit." Some of the sticking points include the rental cost for Amtrak and which side is responsible for moving costs.

Fort Madison has several million dollars invested in the depot project.  The Iowa Department of Transportation said about 7,000 people used the depot during the most recent 12 month period when statistics were available.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.