Amtrak Plans Michigan High-Speed Rail Improvement Study

Amtrak on Jan. 29 announced its intention to perform a high-speed rail improvement study that will focus on determining what infrastructure upgrades are needed to provide 110 mph train service on the Norfolk Southern-owned rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Detroit.

"Amtrak believes 110 mph train service across Michigan is critical for the future and we're committed to understanding what it will take to get there," said President and CEO Joseph Boardman, noting that Amtrak's Wolverine service provides three daily roundtrips between Chicago and Pontiac via Detroit over the corridor.

Amtrak trains currently operate at 79 mph over the Norfolk Southern line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, just west of Detroit, Boardman explained. Amtrak will pay for and perform the high-speed improvement study with the assistance of Norfolk Southern and intends to complete its review by the end of May.

The study will examine infrastructure needs and costs required to allow for 110 mph train service along the corridor. Among the items to be considered are upgrades of tracks, bridges, signal systems, highway-rail grade crossing warning devices and stations. The study will also involve analysis of freight and passenger train operations. Amtrak said the information gathered can support applications for future rounds of funding from federal intercity and high-speed rail capital improvement grant programs.

Boardman said Amtrak recently increased speeds from 79 mph to 95 mph on track it owns from Porter, Ind., to Kalamazoo, and and should further increase speeds to 110 mph by mid-2010. Two of the three Amtrak routes serving Michigan — Wolverine (Chicago-Pontiac) and Blue Water (Chicago-Port Huron) — operate over this section of track.