BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison Mayor Brad Randolph said there may be more rail support for moving the Amtrak Depot to Riverview Park.
The effort to move the depot terminal into the building that houses the North Lee County Historical Society and museum, has taken punch after punch, including a recent bid for reconstruction of the depot’s passenger platform that came in almost double engineer estimates.
But on Tuesday, Randolph said there may be additional support from the Federal Rail Administration to commit funds to the project, depending on the results of the rebidding.
“I did make the decision today to put the project back in front of the (Iowa Department of Transportation) for a rebid in hopes that would be done in February,” Randolph said Tuesday.
He said he did that because he had received some positive information from the Federal Railroad Administration.
Randolph said he wouldn’t know the level of funding from the FRA until the bids are back. He said the FRA is now involved because there was an assumption from Amtrak they would have to improve the current location.
He said whether its a long hual or regional stop, Amtrak has committed to Fort Madison continuing to be a stop.
“I think the FRA has indicated a willingness to help support the project, but that is dependent on how the bids come back. And to find that out we have to put it back with the DOT and rebid it.”
Public support for moving the depot has been sketchy, and even the city council was ready to pull the plug on the project when the engineer estimates showed the city about $400,000 short.
Randolph and councilman Chris Greenwald gave a last ditch effort to come up with outside funding resources and were able to secure the $400,000 for the project.
All the while, the city had to help coordinate three different agreements to make the project a reality.
Included in the agreements is a platform sublease agreement with Amtrak. This agreement provides for the city constructing the platform and then giving ownership to Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad. Amtrak would then lease the platform from BNSF and then sublease it to the city to give the city responsibility for any maintenance and repair. Under the agreement the city would also be responsible for all utilities and insurance coverage.
When the bid from Iowa Bridge and Culvert came in at $2.83 million, about $1.3 over estimates from Klingner & Associates, the project was put on hold again.
He said he feels this is the last chance with the depot, but he said their willingness to help is a positive sign.
“If Amtrak has to improve the facilities they’re in, they would rather use the facilities we’ve already created and see that come to fruition. So that’s the approach being made and apparently being accepted.”