Rail infrastructure improvements along the Chicago – Detroit/Pontiac Amtrak line will allow for safe, dependable, and faster travel along this vital passenger and freight corridor in Michigan. Passengers on the Amtrak Wolverine Service and Chicago – Port Huron Blue Water will get to their destinations in less time and with fewer delays. These new timetables are now in effect, with a new Amtrak schedule available online.
“Between Porter, Ind., and Dearborn, this rail corridor is now dispatched by Amtrak staff, which ensures the efficient movement of passenger trains,” said Tim Hoeffner, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Office of Rail director. “We hope this encourages people to consider the train for their next trip, especially with upcoming construction and high traffic volumes along the I-94 corridor.”
Maximum speeds on the line is 110 mph on the Amtrak-owned section between Porter and Kalamazoo, Mich. On the MDOT-owned portion, the maximum speeds are 79 mph, but they are expected to increase to 110 mph this year in certain sections once the testing of the Positive Train Control system is completed and when new locomotives are put into service.
MDOT purchased 135 miles of the rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn from Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) in 2012. Thanks to $347 million in federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding, MDOT was able to acquire and make the following improvements to the line:
- Replaced worn railroad track and smoothed curves for higher speeds.
- Upgraded railroad crossings and signals for train and motorist safety.
- Upgraded the train signaling and communication system for efficient operations.
Outside of MDOT ownership, other improvements have been made that will benefit the efficient movement of both passenger and freight trains. A new bridge connection was installed in west Detroit allowing for a faster connection for trains bound for Detroit, Royal Oak, Troy, and Pontiac. Amtrak has made continual maintenance improvements to its infrastructure as well.
“At MDOT’s direction, Amtrak work crews have corrected years of deferred maintenance and have taken over dispatching,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak vice president, State-Supported Services. “We have created the longest railroad segment outside the northeast that is being made ready for even more reliable and faster Amtrak service.”
Projects outside of Michigan also have benefits to Amtrak trains. In October 2014, the Englewood Flyover in south Chicago was placed in service, eliminating the at-grade crossing between the Metra Rock Island Line and NS’s Chicago Line, which is the primary Amtrak entrance into Chicago from the east. The Indiana Gateway (a partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration, Indiana Department of Transportation, NS, and Amtrak) has improved a major congestion point of trains between Porter and the Illinois border.
All together, these improvements demonstrate a long-term commitment to safe and faster movement of trains along this growing passenger rail corridor.