High-Speed Rail Line Between Detroit-Chicago Awaits Norfolk Southern Talks

From Michigan Technology News

The headlines have been written about the federal government allocating hundreds
of millions of dollars to support a high-speed passenger rail line between
Detroit and Chicago, but residents won’t see that speedy service until the state
wraps up negotiations with Norfolk Southern, which owns most of the rail line
Amtrak uses.

Amtrak’s Wolverine Route, which runs from Pontiac to Detroit and then
onto Chicago, includes shared usage of Norfolk Southern’s 135 miles of rail
between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

According to a House Fiscal Agency memo outlining the issue, Norfolk
Southern has indicated that with a decline in the freight business, that track’s
79 mph standard doesn’t need to be maintained – and in fact they have reduced
train speed along 41 miles of the stretch to 60 miles per hour.

That slowdown order from 2010 is supposed to be extended to the rest of
the track, as Norfolk Southern has said its freight business only requires a 25
mph standard.

“The (Department of Transportation) has indicated that the gradual
downgrading of this line threatens the reliability of rail passenger service on
the route and could offset improvements in train speed made to the Amtrak-owned
segment of the route,” the fiscal agency states.

Amtrak runs at 95 mph on the track it owns, but intends to increase that
speed to 110 miles per hour once system upgrades are met. Allowing 76 percent of
the Wolverine route to be at that standard cuts an hour off the commute.

Janet Foran, spokesperson for MDOT, said Monday the state continues to
negotiate with Norfolk Southern, but that talks are “complex” and will take

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