Amtrak and the state of Michigan are investing millions of dollars to boost passenger rail speeds to 110 mph, increase ridership, and reduce subsidies. The final phase of track improvements for the 2013 construction season starts Monday, and will wrap up in time for the Thanksgiving travel season.
“We’re going to see some significant on-time performance increases,” says Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman. Because of current track conditions, “the trains have had to slow down where they could ordinarily go at higher speeds. A 60 mph area might have been down to 45 mph, or a 79 mph might have been down to 60 mph.”
This year’s track improvements are part of a multi-year project that, when complete, will reduce the travel time between Detroit/Pontiac and Chicago to approximately 4.5 hours, down from 6.5 hours. The new travel time will make Amtrak much more competitive with commercial air service when parking, security, bag handling, and vehicle service to and from airports are factored in.
By the end of the 2013 construction season, trains will be traveling on more than 30 miles of new track and 130,000 new crossties. Once other improvements are completed starting next year, including safety upgrades, trains will be able to reach speeds of 110 mph in several straight a ways across the state, Magliari says.
The project, being carried out by Amtrak, is part of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s three-state effort to improve the 300-mile corridor from Pontiac and Detroit across Michigan, through northwest Indiana, and to Chicago.