Bullet Trains Passing Us By?

From WXYZ-TV, Channel 7 in Detroit

(WXYZ) Bullet trains darting from Detroit to Chicago and across the country–Is this vision just around the corner or decades away?

With President Obama’s recent announcement of eight-billion dollars headed for high-speed rail, we took a closer look.

High-speed rails may be moving at a snail’s pace for Metro Detroit.

The vision for some is for these bullet trains to cut travel time down from more than five hours to fewer than four from Detroit to Chicago at first; and eventually perhaps to two hours.

Saving time would be nice for Detroiter Nanna Oten, who often rides Amtrack from Detroit’s New Center area all the way to Mississippi. It’s a trip that takes 18 hours.

But the plan to construct high-speed rail lines across the country is years away, perhaps decades. The only reality in the near future is for a few lines like Tampa to Miami and San Francisco to San Diego.

John Delora/Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers: “I think it’s critical, we’re over reliant on highly congested air system, and too reliant of foreign oil.”

President Obama announced last week that eight-billion dollars in federal stimulus money has been granted for rail improvements across the country. Michigan will get a 40-million-dollar chunk. This cash isn’t even for high- speed tracks. It’ll go to either new facilities or station upgrades at the Amtrak stops in Dearborn, Troy, and Battle Creek.

Candice Miller/US Congress-Shelby Twp. (R): “What we got is just a small percent they gave to other states, could Michigan have gotten parity? Now we need to forget about high-speed rail and make improvements to the interstate.”

Some critics say spending taxpayer money on rail, be it for faster trains, or station improvements, is a waste of cash.

Ken Braun: “Generally a lot of money has been put in high-speed rail, and not a lot of use, big cost for the projects.”

California, Illinois, and Florida were the big winners in the recent federal grants, each getting one-to-two-billion dollars. Experts say their highways are so congested that’s one reason why they’re getting so much money and moving faster.

Gary Peters/U.S. Congress-Bloomfield Twp (D): “Is there a feeling Michigan is getting bypassed for high-speed rail? We have to be more aggressive to fight for funding, it’s a step.”

Tim Hoeffner is in charge of high-speed rail for the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). He would have liked to have seen more federal grant money come to Michigan, but new facilities and station upgrades are critical according to their research from passengers.

Tim Hoeffner/MDOT: “What they want is modern stations, frequent stops, convenience and safe and secure service.”

Supporters say high speed rail would decrease our dependence on foreign oil, improve pollution, and create jobs; but even if there is a significant investment in high speed rail, it would likely be overseas companies doing the heavy lifting.

Tim Hoeffner/MDOT: “There’s not a US manufacturer that is out there, there are several US companies that are building commuter rails, but looking to get into high speed or passenger trains.

Experts say to create a true-high speed system similar to Japan or France could take up to 100-billion dollars; almost like creating a new highway system and it would have to be paid for by both the federal government and state legislatures. With the economy the way it is, coming up with that sort of money could be next to impossible.