U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today awarded a $196.5 million grant to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for track and signal improvements between Detroit and Kalamazoo, MI. These improvements will allow for speeds up to 110 mph on 77 percent of Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water services between Detroit and Chicago, resulting in a 30 minute reduction in travel time between those destinations.
"This is an important investment that will reduce travel time, improve reliability and on-time performance, and attract more passengers," said Secretary LaHood. "We are creating jobs in Michigan, building our rails with American-made materials and growing the regional economy."
Dollars for this 135 mile segment between Detroit and Kalamazoo will support preliminary engineering, final design and construction. The project includes new, continuously welded rail and ties, fiber optic lines and infrastructure to support a positive train control system, rebuilding 180 highway-rail grade crossings, and gates and flashers at 65 private highway-rail grade crossings. The project will create approximately 800 new jobs during the construction phase, which is expected to begin late spring 2012, and will facilitate service to current and future freight rail customers, including major shippers like Ford Motor Company.
"Investing in rail service will spark economic development in communities along a corridor linking Detroit and Chicago, two vital Midwest cities," said Governor Rick Snyder. "A faster, reliable passenger rail system is a priority for younger generations and vital to Michigan's ability to compete globally as businesses look to locate or expand. The rail improvements will also hasten the transport of freight, a priority for Ford Motor Company and other Michigan businesses along the route."
"This funding will help move Michigan and the nation forward by making high-speed rail a part of our economic infrastructure," said Senator Carl Levin. "Our economic competitors around the world have long enjoyed the benefits of high-speed rail service between their cities. They have demonstrated that high-speed service can create jobs and promote economic growth, and that it can provide a more energy-efficient alternative."
"Construction of new high-speed lines will create jobs and generate more business activity in Michigan," Senator Debbie Stabenow said. "This effort will not only boost our economy, it will provide residents with more transportation options. With gas prices as high as they are it is critically important that travelers have more choices in addition to driving."
"The obligation of Michigan's rail funding is a critical step forward for high-speed rail service from Detroit to Chicago," said Congressman John Dingell. "As a co-author of legislation that created one of the first high-speed rail assistance programs in the country, I believe rail is essential to maintaining and improving the economic competitiveness of the United States. The development of rail and transit creates immediate and needed construction jobs, retains and recruits local businesses, and reduces our Nation's dependence on foreign oil. I thank Secretary LaHood, FRA and the Michigan Department of Transportation for their hard work on this project."
In addition, MDOT is designated to receive $150 million DOT grant later this year to purchase this 135 mile segment of track, when grant conditions are met. This will allow for the implementation of 110 mph service along the corridor that will bring improved passenger service, ensure capacity for freight operations through double tracking on the busiest freight segment and deliver long-term economic benefits to the State of Michigan.
The Wolverine and Blue Water routes are part of the Midwest rail network, which has a population base of about 29 million people 100-500 miles from one another. Midwestern states have been working cooperatively together to plan and further develop an integrated, multi-state passenger rail network. In addition to the goal of expanding service to new cities, trains in the system will travel at 110 mph on the primary routes and 90 mph on secondary lines, reducing travel time, and increasing reliability and on-time performance.