The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is seeking hundreds of millions of federal dollars to help bring high-speed rail service to the Amtrak Wolverine Line between Pontiac, Detroit and Chicago.
If awarded by the federal government, the ARRA funds would be used over the next two years on "shovel ready" improvements needed to bring high-speed rail to Michigan.
If the grant requests are approved, they could create up to 10,000 jobs in Michigan.
"We are committed to bringing high-speed rail service to Michigan because of the benefit it will have for citizens," Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm said at a news conference. "High-speed rail will enhance our transportation system, create jobs and spur economic development, and help protect our environment."
Specifically, Michigan is applying for up to $800 million for:
- track and train control improvements to accommodate improvements in capacity, speed and safety;
- track and train control capital preventive maintenance, corridor acquisition, and minor operational improvements;
- station work, including new station construction, renovation and rehabilitation.
"We envision high-speed rail service that is fast, frequent, reliable, safe and secure, and that uses modern equipment that makes arriving and departing convenient," Granholm said. "We want to shorten the time it takes to travel from Detroit to Chicago to four hours and increase the frequency of that trip to nine times a day."
Granholm noted the improvements offer benefits to communities, including increased economic development around stations, a more robust connection between colleges and universities, and transportation for tourists to the Henry Ford complex.
ARRA provides $8 billion in competitive grants to support high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects across the country. The applications are the first of three expected rounds of applications for the project. ARRA funding will be used to invest in critical elements of the project - including track improvements, station upgrades, signal and grade crossing improvements, and enhanced technology.
MDOT has worked closely with the freight railroads in recent years to develop the Wolverine corridor. Trains currently operate at speeds up to 95 mph between Kalamazoo and Niles and are expected to increase to 110 mph by the end of 2009. Federal funding would allow expansion of better train technology and increased train speeds east of Kalamazoo, while Amtrak expands the technology and increases train speeds west to Porter, Indiana., an important link on the trip to and from Chicago and cities beyond.
In July, Gov. Granholm signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at the Midwest High-Speed Rail Summit. The MOU establishes a partnership among eight states to work cooperatively to fund the Midwest Corridor, a regional high-speed rail plan that will connect cities throughout the region with frequent, reliable high-speed and conventional intercity rail service.
The initiative, which includes a Michigan Detroit-Pontiac-Chicago line, is modeled after the larger vision of President Barack Obama and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to create a nationwide rail network.
According to the American Association of Railroads, every dollar spent on investments in our nation's railroads - tracks, equipment, locomotives, bridges - yields $3 in economic output.
A decision by the Federal Railroad Administration on the first round of grant applications is expected later this fall. Once the applications are submitted, they will be available online at www.michigan.gov/mdot.