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Fort Madison Signs Amtrak Agreements

Jason Parrott
The platform would be built along the back side of the depot in downtown Fort Madison.

Fort Madison has spent more than a decade negotiating to bring passenger rail service to the historic downtown train depot. It now appears those talks are complete.

City Manager David Varley said the city council this week approved three separate agreements with Amtrak. They include a lease agreement, a sublease agreement, and a revitalization agreement.

Varley said the agreements, as a whole, establish the following:

  • Fort Madison will construct a passenger platform at the downtown depot.
  • The city will give it to BNSF, which will then lease the platform to Amtrak.
  • Amtrak will then lease the platform to the city for 20 years (with possible extensions) so the city is responsible for all maintenance, upkeep, and future repairs.
  • Amtrak will pay the city $150,000 to help pay for the passenger platform.
  • Amtrak will pay the city $400/month in rent and pay for some utilities.
  • If the lease is terminated, the city surrenders the platform to Amtrak.

Varley acknowledged that this is not the first time the city has reached this point and signed these types of agreements with Amtrak. He said this time is different, though, because instead of suggesting more changes, “[Amtrak] said it will sign it immediately and then [the agreements] will go to the Iowa Department of Transportation.”
Varley said IDOT will put the platform construction out for bid -- likely this summer -- once it receives all of the signed agreements. He said that as long as the platform is constructed, Amtrak will relocate from its 20th Street station to the historic depot, which is named for former Mayor Steve Ireland.

The estimated cost for the platform is $1,200,000. Even with Amtrak’s contribution and some previously received grants, the city was about $400,000 short during budget negotiations. It had reached the point that the city council was in favor of backing away from the project, despite the many years of work.

Shortly afterward, IDOT told the city it had grant money available to cover the shortfall.

The Iowa Transportation Commission is scheduled to discuss the grant for Fort Madison during its meeting on April 9th.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the important issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

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