The Michigan – Kalamazoo-Dearborn Service Development received $196.5 million to rehabilitate track and signal systems, bringing trains up to speeds of 110 mph on a 235-mile section of the Chicago to Detroit corridor, reducing trip times by 30 minutes.
“The governor [of Michigan] has a vision; the same vision we have. If we are going to connect America the Midwest is integral and the Detroit to Chicago corridor is integral,” says Sec. LaHood. “The Detroit to Chicago link is critical. This will become a huge economic corridor.”
The Michigan – Ann Arbor Station Project was awarded $2.8 million for an engineering and environmental analysis to construct a new high-speed rail station in Ann Arbor that will better serve passengers and allow more than one train to serve the station simultaneously.
In Minnesota, the Northern Lights Express received $5 million to complete engineering and environmental work for establishing the Northern Lights Express — a high-speed intercity passenger service — connecting Minneapolis to Duluth, with 110-mph high-speed rail service.
Merchant’s Bridge Replacement in Missouri received $13.5 million to advance the design of a new bridge over the Mississippi River on the Chicago to St. Louis Corridor, replacing a bridge built in the 1890s.
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association (MHSRA) undertaking a series of studies looking at the feasibility of a 220 mph high speed rail system for the region and clearly define this vision. Eight Midwest states have already studied upgrading existing Amtrak corridors, which shares track with freight carriers, to 110-mph systems. This new initiative focuses on the 220-mph trains necessary to slash travel times to less than three hours (often two) between major cities.
According to the MHSRA, a high speed rail network in the Midwest would have 43 million annual riders from 13 cities and major metropolitan areas and would make more than $2.2 billion annually in user-generated revenues. There would be 25 daily departures on each of the four corridors, and there would be a capacity for up to 10 trains in peak hours on each corridor. The corridors would cut travel times down to two to three hours between Chicago and the farthest points of the network.
According to the study, the system would cost an estimated $58 million per mile – a total of $83.6 billion
Elsewhere in the Midwest, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill on April 21 that will establish a task force to study 80-mph passenger rail operations between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The bill (No. 1686) also calls for analysis of “high-speed passenger rail service from Tulsa to Oklahoma City via public-private partnership formulas that include Department of Transportation grants and state funding allocations in conjunction with private asset contribution.”
While the United States has made a number of important steps to connect the country through high speed rail, there is still more work to be done. However, LaHood says, “High-speed rail is coming to America,”
Mica says transit agencies can help make high speed rail a reality in the United States by marketing their essential role in helping to establish a successful high-speed rail system
“As more metro areas are able to develop cost-effective transit systems that make connections with other transportation modes such as airports, rail stations and intercity bus service, the potential for successful high-speed rail increases,” Mica concludes.