High speed rail jackpot

Thanks to Florida Governor Rick Scott, Michigan found itself the lucky winner of $200 million in federal funding for high-speed rail this morning:

The bulk of the funds — $196.5 million — is to help retrofit a 135-mile section of the Kalamazoo to Dearborn track for high-speed rail service.

Tim Hoeffner, the Michigan Department of Transportation’s administrator of high-speed rail and innovative projects advancement, said in an interview last month the improvement could be completed by the end of 2013 and shave 50 minutes off the Detroit-Chicago trip, down to about four hours.

In order to accommodate high-speed rail, the track will get upgrades, including new signals, crossing improvements and technical timing devices called positive train control. These improvements will put passenger rail speeds at 79 mph, with train speeds expected eventually to reach 110 mph…

Michigan’s passenger rail services are currently experiencing all time record levels for both ridership and revenue.

While this infusion of federal funds will not suffice to get commuter service up and running between Ann Arbor and Detroit, I presume it would work wonders in terms of improving our service to Chicago.  The Amtrak lines between Chicago and Michigan destinations are notoriously subject to delays;  the last time I rode Ann Arbor to Royal Oak, the train left the station over 90 minutes behind schedule, and the trip took another 90.  The 20% reduction in travel time and the introduction of a dedicated track for passenger travel will make the train a more reliable and viable option along this route.

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