Midwest Amtrak Route Upgrades Underway

The U.S. Department recently announced funding of two projects that will affect Amtrak service in the Midwest. A groundbreaking was held in Chicago for construction of the $133 million Englewood flyover.

The project will separate tracks of the former Pennsylvania Railroad and former Rock Island Railroad that cross at grade in the Englewood neighborhood. The former PRR tracks, now owned by Norfolk Southern, are used by Amtrak’s Michigan trains as well as the Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited and the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Englewood has long been a source of delay for Amtrak trains forced to wait until Metra commuter trains on the ex-Rock Island line clear the crossing.

The federal government granted $126 million to the project, which is part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program to reduce rail congestion. The Englewood crossing handles 78 Metra trains on weekdays along with 60 Amtrak and freight trains.

U.S. DOT also announced that it has granted $196.5 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation for track and signal improvements between Detroit and Kalamazoo.  The improvements will allow for speeds up to 110 mph over portions of the routes of Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water services, resulting in a 30 minute reduction in travel time between endpoint destinations.

The Blue Water is a daily roundtrip between Chicago and Port Huron via Flint and East Lansing while the Wolverine service consists of three daily roundtrips between Chicago and Pontiac (Detroit) via Niles, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson, Ann Arbor and Dearborn.

Work on the 135-mile segment between Detroit and Kalamazoo will involve preliminary engineering, final design and construction. The project includes new, continuously welded rail and ties, fiber optic lines and infrastructure to support a positive train control system, rebuilding 180 highway-rail grade crossings, and gates and flashers at 65 private highway-rail grade crossings.  Construction is expected to begin in late spring 2012.

In addition, MDOT expected to receive a $150 million U.S. DOT grant later this year to purchase the Detroit-Kalamazoo track after grant conditions are met. The track is now owned by Norfolk Southern. Amtrak owns the route between Kalamazoo and Porter, Ind.

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