Amtrak and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) are gearing up for track improvements along a former Norfolk Southern Railway route used by Amtrak's Wolverine and Blue Water trains from Kalamazoo to central and Eastern Michigan.
As announced late last year, MDOT used a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant to purchase 135 miles of NS track for $140 million. The line connects with the Amtrak-owned Michigan District, which runs 97 miles from Kalamazoo to Porter, Ind. Now, nearly 80 percent of the route between Detroit and Chicago is publicly owned, and will be maintained for passenger trains operating at higher speeds, Amtrak and MDOT officials announced yesterday.
The goal is to increase Amtrak trains' top speeds from 80 mph to 110 mph, starting with a 22-mile segment between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Travel times will be reduced as improvements are made, Amtrak officials said.
In addition to the $140 million, the FRA also awarded $196.5 million to MDOT for major track and signal improvements on the corridor to be performed by Amtrak. NS will transfer rail control to Amtrak in phases over the next three years.
Meanwhile, Amtrak, federal and Florida officials yesterday kicked off construction for a new train station in Winter Park, Fla., that will serve Amtrak and SunRail passenger-rail service.
The 2,400-square-foot station will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. To open by late 2013 or early 2014, the station will serve Amtrak's Silver Meteor and Silver Star services south to Miami and north to New York.
SunRail is a future commuter-rail service that will run along a 61-mile stretch of existing freight-rail tracks through Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Osceola counties, and the city of Orlando.
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