Michigan Lt. Gov. Calley OKs funds for rail project

From HSR Updates:

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed legislation Seot. 29, 2011 that will enable the state to accept millions of dollars in federal grants to upgrade the Chicago-Detroit corridor to operate high-speed rail service.

Senate Bill 237, which the Michigan House of Representatives passed on Wednesday and the state Senate passed last week, allocates funds needed to purchase and improve a 135-mile rail line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, which will enable passenger trains to operate at speeds up to 110 mph.

The bill allows the state to collect $358.9 million in competitive federal rail grants for the Detroit-to-Chicago service. The bill also gives the state the go-ahead to spend $2.8 million in federal funding to help build a new rail station in Ann Arbor that eventually would serve HSR trains.

“The accelerated rail project is a critical investment that will help spur our economy,” Calley said in a prepared statement. “Michigan’s project share is less than 5 percent, meaning this is a tremendous deal for our state that will boost our economic development efforts and improve quality of life in our communities.”

Meanwhile, negotiations with Norfolk Southern Railway, which owns the Dearborn-to-Kalamazoo track, are “ongoing and are independent of completing work on the funding package to pay for the project,” said Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) spokeswoman Janet Foran in an emailed statement.

The legislation provides “expenditure authority” for the grant funding “so that MDOT can purchase and upgrade this segment of the corridor once a deal is reached,” she said.