The second of three Michigan track improvement phases for the 2013 construction season begins between Jackson and Battle Creek on Sept. 30.
While the project will cause some delays and modified schedules, the result will be upgraded tracks and more reliable service for Amtrak Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains as part of the Accelerated Rail Program being carried out by Amtrak for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT).
This phase of the project will largely take place west of Jackson, Mich., to Battle Creek, Mich., Mondays through Thursdays, with the tracks open for all trains on regular schedules on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Trains 350 and 353 will terminate and originate in Battle Creek, rather than Pontiac, through Oct. 10. Alternate transportation for these trains will be provided in both directions as chartered buses between Pontiac and Battle Creek.
When all 2013 phases of the project are complete in November, more than 30 miles of new track and 130,000 new cross-ties will be installed by crews working ten-hour days.
“This track improvement work is an upgrade to the route owned by the state of Michigan,” said Tim Hoeffner, director of MDOT’s Office of Rail. “This work provides great benefits from more reliable track conditions and eliminates the need for similar track disruptions next year between Dearborn and Kalamazoo,” said Al Johnson, MDOT rail operations manager.
MDOT is leading a three-state effort to improve the 300-mile corridor from Pontiac and Detroit across Michigan, through northwest Indiana and to Chicago. The result of these and future infrastructure improvements will allow Amtrak trains in mid-Michigan to operate at speeds up to 110 miles per hour, as they do now for 80 miles in southwestern Michigan and part of Indiana.
Michigan has the longest stretch of higher-speeds in the Midwest, with the Wolverine and Blue Water trains carrying Amtrak passengers at the highest speeds available outside the Northeast U.S.
A goal of the project is to reduce the end-to-end travel time between Detroit/Pontiac and Chicago by approximately two hours from the current 6 hours and 30 minutes.
The track improvement work is supervised by an MDOT/Amtrak team and began earlier this month between Dearborn and Jackson.
Amtrak passengers can opt in when they make their round-trip or one-way reservations to be automatically notified when their trains are behind schedule due to construction work or for any other reason.