From The Windsor Star
With too many factions studying high-speed rail in the Quebec City to Windsor corridor, MP Brian Masse (NDP – Windsor-West) called on the federal government Monday to form one working group to fast track rail improvements.
Masse sent a letter to federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel and launched a “Need for Speed” campaign calling on the government to join with the private sector and ensure highspeed rail investments become reality.
It should include investments to run a high-speed service through Windsor to Chicago, he said.
“Significant upgrades to Canada’s rail capacity are long overdue and impacting our ability to compete in the global economy,” said Masse in his letter to Lebel. He noted this country remains the only G8 country which has no high-speed rail networks.
A multitude of studies on high-speed rail often fall by the wayside because of “sticker shock,” and nothing gets done, Masse said.
He believes a push instead for ‘higher speed’ rail with the goal of lessening passenger travel time has greater hope to win support as it would require government investment in the hundreds of millions of dollars and not billions.
The working group would assess priorities, Masse said.
Lebel’s office did not respond Monday to a request for comment from The Star on Masse’s letter.
The local MP recently travelled to Lansing to get details on the Obama administration’s $200-million grant for rail infrastructure in Michigan to improve passenger rail speed on the Detroit to Chicago connection.
“What I learned is there was great interest to connect to Windsor,” Masse said.
A new $400-million doublestack Detroit River rail tunnel has been on the table for years and the project’s environmental assessment is expected to be completed in fall of 2012.
There are hopes if a new CPbacked Windsor-Detroit freight rail tunnel gets built, the current tunnel could be converted for passenger trains and create a Quebec City to Chicago link.
“We are in the process of seeking government funding on both the Canadian and U.S. side,” said David Cree, CEO of the Windsor Port Authority, a partner in the rail tunnel project.
“We do need significant funding from both sides to make this work.”
It’s been determined the current Detroit River rail tunnel, which opened in 1910, is structurally sound and can easily be converted for use by passenger trains for many years to come, he said.
“If you have a new tunnel (for freight) that would release the current tunnel for passenger rail,” Cree said. “We have put that on the table during all our discussions (with government officials). You can’t operate passenger and freight through the same tunnel, so you need that new tunnel.”
In Michigan, the federal funds are being used for $196.5-million track and rail signal improvements to allow trains to travel 110 mph on a stretch from Dearborn to Kalamazoo, according to an official with the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Another $2.8 million will be spent to replace the Ann Arbor station.
Canada’s push for higher speed and Masse’s call for a working group is “an idea whose time has come,” Cree said, pointing to the federal investment in Michigan and growing push to get the rail tunnel built.