Coalition wants in on benefits of rail project

Mark Ridolfi

When work begins on the Chicago-to-Moline Amtrak connection, a group of Quad-Citians wants to make sure part of the $230 million project benefits local businesses, low-income workers, minorities and women.

Quad-Cities Interfaith hosts a transportation equity summit at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Bethel-Wesley United Methodist Church, 1201 13th St., Moline, to rally supporters for a Quad-City rail community benefits agreement. Participants at the summit will shape details of the agreement.

Interfaith's planning documents propose:

-- Reserving 30 percent of the project hours for women, minorities and lower income workers.

-- Setting aside 1 percent of all funding for job training in the Quad-Cities.

-- Inclusion of local small businesses in the contracting.

-- Relocation assistance for individuals displaced by construction.

"It's creating a mindset that projects like this should have a measurable economic impact on our community," said Clyde Mayfield, a Davenport businessman and summit supporter.

Proposals also include a local committee of businesses, civic groups, unions and churches to monitor adherence to any agreement.

Summit organizers include Interfaith vice president Rev. Dave Geenen, of Fifteenth Avenue Christian Church, Rock Island; Kent Ferris, of the Diocese of Davenport; and Davenport activists Vera Kelly and Janet Woods-Bragg.

Interfaith representative Leslie Kilgannon said the local effort grows from Gamaliel, a national faith organization that helped win inclusion of similar criteria in a 2005 federal transportation funding bill. A community benefit agreements for interstate construction in St. Louis and Kansas City earmarked 0.5 percent of project costs for local job training. Kilgannon said Thursday's summit will help shape a similar proposal for the rail project.

"Will it turn out exactly like our draft? We don't know. That's what this process is all about," she said.

Summit organizers said they pitched the plan to area labor leaders, who have been invited to Thursday's summit, but have made no commitments yet.

"Our primary goal is to figure out how this project can be done so that our community can be involved, so we see long-lasting benefits," Mayfield said.

This story originally appeared in the Quad-City Times on August 12, 2011 and is available here: