High Speed Being Eyed for Detroit Rail Route

It will cost nearly $3 billion to upgrade the Chicago-Detroit rail corridor to a point where trains can travel 110 mph over much of the route.

Upgrading the corridor was the subject of a public hearing held this week in Detroit to consider an environmental impact statement for the project.

Transportation officials said that the 300-mile corridor could by 2035 host 10 roundtrips and cut the Chicago-Detroit travel time by almost two hours.

Currently, Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains are scheduled to complete the run in 5 hours, 38 minutes.

Officials hope to complete the environmental impact statement during 2015. The public comment period will run through Dec. 19.

A preliminary plan shown during the Detroit hearings shows the route from Michigan City, Ind., to Pontiac following the current Wolverines route, but several options are under consideration for the route between Michigan City and Chicago.

New stations also need to be built in New Buffalo, Ann Arbor, Detroit’s New Center and Royal Oak as well as an additional new station in northwest Indiana.

Matt Webb, a consultant with the planning and engineering company HNTB, said that the Wolverines are among Amtrak’s worst-performing in terms of on-time service.

However, officials acknowledged that funding could be the biggest obstacle to overcome to implement higher-speed rail in the Chicago-Detroit corridor.

Mohammed Alghurabi, senior project manager for the Michigan Department of Transportation, said the project is contingent on funding.

Consequently, there is no timeline for when construction could start in earnest. Improvements that support high-speed rail are continuing along the corridor, he added.

“There’s a lot of public interest to see the project move forward,” Alghurabi said. “The good news is you have the three states — Illinois, Indiana and Michigan — working together … toward a common goal.”

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