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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

Amtrak marks 110-mph service to Michigan, plans more high-speed improvements


Yesterday, an Amtrak train tested a recently federally approved maximum speed of 110 mph along a route from Chicago through Indiana to Kalamazoo, Mich., and back, marking the first expansion of high-speed rail outside of the Northeast Corridor.

Federal approval of higher speeds along the route was announced last week. The speed is the highest allowed by Amtrak trains west of Pennsylvania and New York, Amtrak officials said in a prepared statement.

The test “sets the stage for expansion of accelerated service from Kalamazoo to Dearborn by 2015, helping us meet the demands of the next generation of travelers,” said Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Kirk Steudle, who noted the state is in the late stages of completing the purchase of the track segment from Norfolk Southern Railway. Joining Steudle on the train were local, state, Amtrak and federal officials, including Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

“This is just the beginning,” Szabo said. “With projects coming to fruition this year and new ones breaking ground, 2012 promises to be the High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program’s best year yet.”

GE Transportation, with assistance from Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), developed the Incremental Train Control System (ITCS) installed on the Amtrak-owned Michigan district between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.

The 110-mph expansion service in western Michigan was a project that GE together with Amtrak, MDOT and FRA implemented beginning in 1995, GE officials said in a prepared statement. The service successfully reached milestones of 90 mph in 2002 and 95 mph in 2005. After Wednesday’s test, Amtrak can operate eight daily passenger trains at 110 mph; three NS freight trains also can operate through the section of track under ITCS control, GE officials said.

“This improvement is one of many we are making in the Midwest and throughout our system,” said Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper. “By operating at higher speeds, our passengers can reach their designations sooner, our trains and our crews can be more productive by covering more ground in less time and we are showing how incremental improvements to Amtrak service can be achieved with new technology.”

Amtrak and the Illinois Department of Transportation have similar plans on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, where federal regulations also require the use of train control technology. That route will become the second 110-mph “spoke” from an Amtrak Chicago hub, Amtrak officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/16/2012