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Rail News: High-Speed Rail

USDOT awards $196 million grant to Michigan for track, signal work


Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded a $196.5 million grant to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for track and signal improvements between Detroit and Kalamazoo, Mich.

The improvements will enable trains to travel at speeds up to 110 mph on 77 percent of Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water services between Detroit and Chicago, which would cut travel time between those cities by 30 minutes, USDOT officials said in a prepared statement.

The grant will help fund preliminary engineering, final design and construction for the 135-mile segment. The project will include new, continuously welded rail ties, fiber optic lines and infrastructure to support a positive train control system, the rebuilding of 180 highway-rail grade crossings, and the installation of gates and flashers at 65 private highway-rail grade crossings. Construction is scheduled to begin in late spring 2012.

The improvements also will make it easier for existing and future freight-rail customers, such as Ford Motor Co., to move their products to market using rail, USDOT and Michigan officials said.

“Investing in rail service will spark economic development in communities along a corridor linking Detroit and Chicago, two vital Midwest cities,” said Michigan Gov. 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.”

In addition to the grant announced today, MDOT has been designated to receive a $150 million federal grant later this year to purchase the 135-mile segment of track, which is owned by Norfolk Southern Railway. Negotiations between NS and the state are “ongoing,” an MDOT spokeswoman said late last week.

Also last week, Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed legislation that will enable the state to accept millions of dollars in federal grants to upgrade the Chicago-Detroit corridor to operate high-speed rail service.

Senate Bill 237, which the Michigan Legislature passed last month, allocates funds needed to purchase and improve the 135-mile line.

The bill enables the state to collect $358.9 million in competitive federal rail grants for the Detroit-to-Chicago service. The bill also gives the state the go-ahead to spend $2.8 million in federal funding to help build a new rail station in Ann Arbor that eventually would serve HSR trains.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/5/2011