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Michigan, New Hampshire DOTs advance state rail plans


The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently finalized a state rail plan designed to guide the development of freight- and passenger-rail systems for the next 20 years. The plan identifies current and future needs, and recommends ongoing rail investments.

According to recommendations in the plan, projects estimated to cost $7.2 billion should be pursued. Among them:
• improvements to segments of the Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac corridor, including CN-owned segments;
• construction of intermodal stations in Detroit and Ann Arbor;
• completion of improvements for Ann Arbor-Detroit Regional Rail and WALLY Regional Rail;
• installation of positive train control on all passenger-rail lines and those freight-rail lines used to haul hazardous materials;
• completion of a feasibility study for a west Michigan intermodal terminal in the Grand Rapids region;
• completion of a substantial portion of the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal project; and
• construction of new freight-rail tunnel between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Projects might be prioritized or de-emphasized in future years depending on ridership demand, feasibility, cost and benefits, public support and funding availability, said Larry Karnes, MDOT's freight policy expert, in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) has scheduled a series of public meetings in February and March to solicit comments on draft recommendations for the state’s rail plan. Meetings will be held Feb. 29 in Portsmouth, March 5 in Nashua and March 8 in Berlin.

In February 2011, NHDOT began drafting a new rail plan, which will include an analysis of freight- and passenger-rail systems’ strengths and weaknesses in the state, a review of factors that affect the systems and recommendations for potential improvements. The updated document would build upon the existing state rail plan that was drafted in 2001 and identify rail's role in the regional transportation network, as well as its effect on New Hampshire's current and future economy, NHDOT officials said in a meeting notice.

Freight and passenger railroads that operate in New Hampshire include Pan Am Railways, the New England Central Railroad, St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad, Claremont Concord Railroad, New England Southern Railroad, New Hampshire Northcoast, Amtrak Downeaster, Conway Scenic Railroad and Hobo Railroad.

NHDOT had planned to hold a series of public meetings on the rail plan last fall, but those meetings were postponed.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/7/2012