Michigan Wins $200M for High-Speed Rail

Posted on May 9, 2011

Michigan will get nearly $200 million in federal funding to make high-speed rail a reality — and to help build a new bus and train station in Ann Arbor, the Transportation Department announced this morning.

The bulk of the funds — $196.5 million — is to help retrofit a 135-mile section of the Kalamazoo to Dearborn track for high-speed rail service. In total, this will eventually allow trains to travel 110 miles an hour on 235 miles between Chicago and Detroit, the government said.

The state is also one of seven that will next-generation passenger rail equipment in the Midwest. The government awarded $268.2 million to purchase 48 high-performance passenger rail cars and seven quick-acceleration U.S.-built locomotives for eight corridors in the Midwestern States: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri. Michigan had sought $366 million along with three other states.

Michigan and 23 other states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted nearly 100 applications seeking $10 billion.

The government awarded $2.02 billion to 22 projects in 15 states.

“These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and railcars,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.

This is the second grant for the key section of track in the Detroit to Chicago corridor. Michigan previously received a $150 million grant for the Kalamazoo to Dearborn track improvements — and to acquire the track from Norfolk Southern.

Tim Hoeffner, the Michigan Department of Transportation’s administrator of high-speed rail and innovative projects advancement, said in an interview last month the improvement could be completed by the end of 2013 and shave 50 minutes off the Detroit-Chicago trip, down to about four hours.

In order to accommodate high-speed rail, the track will get upgrades, including new signals, crossing improvements and technical timing devices called positive train control. These improvements will put passenger rail speeds at 79 mph, with future train speeds expected eventually to reach 110 mph.

The Transportation Department also said it is awarding $2.8 million for an engineering and environmental analysis to construct a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor, which will better serve passengers and allow more than one train to serve the station simultaneously.

The state’s application seeking the funds said the station would be used for both buses and trains and shared by Amtrak, the University of Michigan and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority. Michigan will put up $700,000 as part of the project.

Michigan previously won $40 million to construct a new train station in Dearborn and to upgrade stations in Troy and Battle Creek.

LaHood, Gov. Rick Snyder, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and Reps. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, are to attend an event today at the Detroit Amtrak station to announce the awards.

“The investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities,” LaHood said.

By David Shepardson, The Detroit News