Dearborn-Kzoo high speed rail

As you can see, I’m still getting this whole pacing my entries thing down.  I was really patting myself on the back for kicking out four posts in the first week.   Week 2 has been a hell of a lot busier.  I was totally rolling my eyes when Andrew Sullivan whined on Weekend Edition about how taxing it had become to maintain The Daily Dish… now I am starting to understand where he’s coming from.

As I’ve put off updating, I’ve found myself with quite the backlog of news to sift through.  A lot has happened just in Detroit and Ann Arbor alone, and I suspect my focus on this blog is going to become primarily local for partly that reason… but we’ll see, it’s young yet.

The biggest news, for me, were two updates to topics I touched on in last week’s posts:  rail transit and Detroit development.  Both developments were positive.  First, as reported by Crain’s:

“The Michigan Department of Transportation will get $150 million in federal aid to improve a proposed high-speed rail corridor between Dearborn and Kalamazoo, it was announced today. The money comes from the 2010 High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program…  The funding announcement didn’t specify what the money would pay for, but it’s believed to be funding to construct new sidings and signals.”

I don’t know what sidings and signals are, but they must be pretty expensive.  Anyway, this corridor runs smack through Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti on the way from Detroit to Chicago, including where the Amtrak line from East Lansing joins it.   It’s a heavily used corridor for weekend getaways to Chicago and it sounds like it would alleviate some of the severe delays that hinder rail travel between the two metros and make me, for one, think twice about taking Amtrak to Chicago.

Ryan Stanton at Ann Arbor News, I mean AnnArbor.com, fleshes it out a bit more, quoting Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje and :

‘”The track improvements needed to enable higher-speed rail to run this line are the same ones that have been holding up MDOT’s east-west commuter rail project that we have been working on,” Hieftje said, calling the announcement “very good news” for the regional economy.

‘”MDOT’s already put millions of dollars into the commuter rail, and this is the piece that makes it all work,” he said. “What the east-west commuter rail has needed is some track improvements in the Detroit area that will allow spaces for the freights and the passenger trains to pass.”

‘… Being able to improve the Kalamazoo-to-Dearborn portion, he said, is one more piece of the puzzle to allow trains to nearly double their speed between Detroit and Chicago.

‘”This is huge for us,” said Terri Blackmore, executive director of the Washtenaw Area Transportation Study. “This will allow this portion of the railroad to get to the higher speed.”

‘Blackmore said the money will allow either the state or Amtrak to purchase a portion of track between Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo from Norfolk Southern and make improvements.’

The story, by the way, sure got the attention of AnnArbor.com’s readership — 128 comments at last count, which is stratospheric for stories on that site.   A lot of them were speculation that the timing of the announcement, or even the award of the funds, was politically motivated in order to give Congressman Dingell a last-minute boost prior to Election Day.   I’m pretty sure that’s not how US DOT’s funding programs work, as this is not a congressional appropriation (aka ‘pork’) but a competitive grant, but regardless, I’m one of those who’ll gladly take federal money for rail transit in my area, no questions asked.

I’ll cover the Living City award — the good news in Detroit development I mentioned — in the next post.

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2 responses to “Dearborn-Kzoo high speed rail

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